“We have to give them so much that our stomachs are empt of food”

The Hidden Impact of Burma’s Arbitrary & Corrupt Taxation
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Copyright © 2010 Network for Human Rights Documentation - Burma
All rights reserved.
Printed in ailand
ISBN:
Published by: Network for Human Rights Documentation - Burma
PO Box 67, CMU Post Oce, Chiang Mai 50202
ailand
Date of publication: May, 2010
Website address: http://www.nd-burma.org
Cover and layout design by MMMLwin
e photos in this report are copyrighted materials of HREIB, HURFOM and
Yoma3 News Services.
Front cover photo: © HURFOM, “We are poor people, not because we are lazy,
and don’t have jobs but because the money we earn daily is not enough for our daily
food” Family in Mon State.
Back cover photo: © HURFOM, 77 year old woman collecting grass to make
brooms to sell, Mon State.
Funded by: National Endowment for Democracy and Open Society
Institute.
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Acknowledgements
We would like to express our gratitude to the bravery of the interviewees, ND-
Burma member organisations and their eld workers who risked their lives to collect
information to reveal the truth in this report. eir commitment demonstrates that
people of Burma still have faith and courage to reveal the injustice and abuses that are
committed by the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC).
is report was researched and written in main by Dr. Alison Vicary; Burma
Economic Watch, Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia, specically sections
I and II, she also provided our eld workers with taxation training. Portions of this
report were researched and written by Teresa Walentyna; Programme Specialist from
Voluntary Services Overseas, specically section III, she also provided research and
consent training and editing. Review was provided by Patrick Pierce, International
Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) and ND-Burma’s Arbitrary Taxation working
group. Translation into Burmese was provided by Ko Aung u Nyein and the
Innwa Translation Group. Translation into English of bulletins was provided by Ah
Noh. e layout and design of the report was provided by Maung Maung Myint
Lwin(mmlwin).
We are grateful to the funders of this report; e National Endowment for
Democracy and the Open Society Institute.
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Contents
Foreword by ND-Burma …………………………………........................................……….. 7
Methodology …………………………………………….............................................…………. 9
Map ……………………………………….................................................…………………… 11
Summary………… ……………………….…….................................................……………….... 12
Key recommendations …………… ……….………………....................................…….. 17
I. e Basic Norms of a Taxation System ...………….............................…………....... 19
Administration Costs ………………..…………………………….................................... 19
Flexibility ……………….…………………………..........................................…………….. 19
Political Responsibility……………....................................……………………….……... 20
Fairness ………………………………………………………….............................................. 20
Economic Eciency …………………………………….......................................………. 21
II. e Economic Impact of Burma’s Taxation System…….........................…….... 25
Taxation on Households ……………………………………...................................……. 25
Taxation on Infrastructure………………………………………..................................... 36
Taxation on Small Businesses ………………..................................………………….… 40
Taxation on Private Sector Agriculture……………………………............................. 47
Tatmadaw and the TPDC/VPDC Businesses……………………........................... 52
Taxes at Checkpoints…………......................................……….…………………………. 58
Vehicle Licenses and Fees………………....................................…….………………….. 67
e Economic Impact on Livelihoods….............................…………………………. 73
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III. e Impact of Burma’s Taxation System on Human Rights ........................ 75
Burma’s Human Rights Obligations………..............................……………….…….. 76
Corruption in Burma’s Taxation System…………….……….…….......................... 78
Arbitrary Interference and Deprivation of Property…..........................………… 80
Forced Labour ……………...........................................…………………………………… 83
Adequate Standard of Living …………....................................……………………….. 85
Conclusion ……………………………..............................................…………………………... 91
Recommendations…….......................................………..……………………………….. 91
Appendixes……………………………...............................................…………………………... 95
Acronyms and Burmese Terms……....................................…………………………… 95
e Basics of Tax Reform………….........................................……….………………… 97
ND-Burma Member Organisation Biographies…….........................………..….. 103
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7
“We have to give them so much that our stomachs are empty of food”
Foreword
“Part of our struggle is to make the international community understand
that we are a poor country not because there is an insuciency of resources
and investment, but because we are deprived of the basic institutions and
practices that make for good government.”
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi
“e combination of land conscation, forced labour and tax extortion
makes life dicult for the villagers of Wae Won and Wae Taw. ey face
a scarcity of land, and are unable to tend to their elds because they must
work for the battalions. ey cannot aord to pay taxes or fees to the
authorities or army. When these problems became severe, many villagers
abandon their native villages and ee to other areas.”
1

e Network for Human Rights Documentation – Burma (ND-Burma) a multi
ethnic network, was formed in 2003 to provide a way for Burma human rights
organizations to collaborate on the human rights documentation process. e
13 ND-Burma member organizations, from dierent areas across Burma, seek to
collectively use the truth of what communities in Burma have endured to challenge
the regime’s power through present-day advocacy as well as prepare for justice and
accountability measures in a potential transition.
ND-Burma collectively has over 2,000 entries in its database and has developed
a strong track record on training human rights data collectors. e network has
chosen arbitrary taxation for the subject of our rst report. is may seem an unusual
choice, given the dramatic and severe civil and political human rights violations that
also deserve attention. Indeed, ND-Burma’s database contains stories of arbitrary
arrest and detention, killings, recruitment and use of child soldiers, and many other
categories of human rights violations. So, why taxation?
In early 2007, we asked ourselves what issue was aecting people in all of our
communities – rural and urban, majority and minority ethnic communities, male
and female. We also asked ourselves what issue was having a large impact on our
communities but was not well represented in the record of human rights violations
that we and others were developing. None of us expected at the beginning of the
exercise that we would end up focusing on taxation and its corruption.
Around the same time, the ’88 Generation Students conducted its “Open Hearts
Letter Campaign,” encouraging people to write letters expressing their daily
suerings in relation to political, economic, and social aairs. e group received
1 HURFOM (2009) “ Meeting with taxation victims from southern anbyuzayat Township in the border” Mon state, Martus Bulletin
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over 2,500 letters, and over 50% of them identied “suerings relating to costs of
living, business, education and health.”
2
ND-Burma’s research came to a similar
conclusion. People in Burma are forced to hand over large proportions of their
income and property in ocial and unocial taxes and this happens so oen for
each family, that it makes basic survival extremely hard. We wanted to highlight
how the arbitrary and repressive nature of these taxes has an imense impact on every
aspect of people’s lives. Taxation in Burma aects people’s livelihood and quality
of life but also becomes all-consuming as families desperately try to nd the money
and other resources to pay these taxes and nd ways to cope with the devastating
eect it has on their already dismal income. People consequently have little time to
be concerned with their rights, as day to day survival under this taxation system has
become a priority.
e 88 Generation Students ndings, and ND-Burma’s recognition in 2007
that economic pressure was a major source of suering, were prescient. Later
that year, a fuel-price hike sent a ripple eect through the economy, suddenly
making it impossible for day labourers to aord the transportation to take them
to their jobs. When the 88 Generation Students leaders were jailed for organizing
demonstrations, Buddhist monks dramatically took on the leadership role, calling for
economic reform and tying the dismal state of the economy to the need for political
reconciliation.
We do not expect that people’s lives will improve aer the elections planned for
2010. e military is poised to maintain control over the political life of the country.
Its plan to transform the armed opposition groups into a Border Guard Force and
various militias will maintain the militarization of Burmese society – a system largely
paid for through arbitrary taxation, as this report demonstrates. People’s livelihoods
will improve only when genuine political reform takes place and democratic systems
are developed that give people recourse when their property is taken from them
unfairly, when extortion is brought under control, and people’s representatives are
chosen freely and fairly and then are answerable to their communities.
e system of taxation and extortion impacts on the people of Burma’s basic human
rights by violating their right to an adequate standard of living, right to development,
property rights, right to education and in the forced labour they are subjected to. e
report aims to inform the international community about these practices committed
by the regime and the immense negative impact it creates on the people of Burma. It
also urges accountability and change.
ND-Burma Management Board
May 2010
2 ’88 Generation Students. 2008. e ndings in the open heart letter campaign in January 2007. Available at: http://www.burmalibrary.org/docs6/OpenHeart-
Publication.pdf.
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9
“We have to give them so much that our stomachs are empty of food”
Methodology
G
athering information on Human Rights violations and the behaviour of
government ocials in relation to ocial and unocial taxation in Burma
is extremely challenging. e repressive and watching nature of Burma’s
state and the arbitrary nature of much of the taxation mean it is not possible to
conduct a comprehensive survey of the taxation system. ND-Burma’s data collectors
operated undercover and in localised areas, they, their organisations and interviewees
took part in this report at great personal risk.
e primary research for this report is 342 records of interviews conducted by eld
workers and nine interviews conducted by the author, with 85% of these events
recorded occurring between 2008 and 2010. Some of these records are accessible
at www.martus.ceu.hu. Data collectors from ND-Burma’s member organisations
received training on documentation and gaining consent. e information used in
this report contains pseudonyms and identifying information has been withheld to
protect the safety of those involved. Additional information analysed for this report
includes previous reports by ND-Burma member organisations and other Burmese
civil society organisations, Burmese media, economic reviews and articles.
e ocial exchange rate is 1US$ to 6 Kyat. However, the unocial rate is 975-
1000 Kyat, which is the rate used in Burma and therefore the rate used in this
report. Salary levels in Burma are currently among the lowest in Asia. For example
Government workers usually earn between 15,000 Kyat (15 US$) and 200,000 Kyat
(200 US$) a month and Government teachers earn around 45,000 Kyat (45 US$) a
month. A small shop owner would take in about 3000-5000 Kyat a day.
is report reviews data mainly showing the arbitrary and corrupt collection of
money, land, goods and labour in the name of taxation by the SPDC and regime-
backed organizations, such as the Union Solidarity and Development Association
(USDA). Non-state actors, such as armed opposition groups, may also be involved
in these taxation practices, requiring villagers to support them with money, food
and labour. e context in which taxation by non-state actors occurs is very dierent
than the state-backed practice and therefore is beyond the scope of this report. is
report is comprised of two parts, rstly an analysis of the economic impact of the
SPDC’s collection of resources from the people in the name of taxation. Secondly,
it presents an analysis of how this economic impact combined with the methods
of collection used and the poor expenditure on education and health by the SPDC
breaches human rights.
Data was collected on arbitrary taxation which for the purposes of this report
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includes a range of corrupt actions used to extort various resources from the people.
Each interview can contain information on a number of dierent types of corrupt
and arbitrary taxation. erefore, whilst the total number of interviews about
taxation undertaken by ND-Burma eld workers was 342 the number of corrupt
and arbitrary actions recorded was much larger. e table below shows some of the
most common types of arbitrary taxation that were described in the interviews. is
breakdown is shown as a representation of the data collected by ND-Burma and does
not necessarily reect the proportions experienced across Burma.
Types of Taxation
180
160
140
120
100
80
60
40
20
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“We have to give them so much that our stomachs are empty of food”
Data was gathered from the following areas;
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Summary
“When we think of the state of the economy, we are not thinking in terms of
money ow. We are thinking in terms of the eect on everyday lives of people.”
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi
“We cannot do anything to reduce this taxation and they just came and
collect by force. We face diculties when they come and collect oen. We
just work for odd jobs and so how can we pay their taxes? Same villagers
did not know that they have to pay tax for building a new house. In the past
when we built new houses we did not have to pay a tax for this. I know that
the group who demanded money from us were police but I do not know
their names. ey will use that money for themselves only.”
3
G
overnments require resources to provide goods and services, such as health
care, education, roads, bridges, electricity, water and sanitation. e
majority of government revenue is typically raised by; taxing people and
their businesses, charging fees for services supplied by a government, aid funds
and revenue from the country’s natural resources. People all over the world are
dissatised and complain about the taxes they are obliged to pay. However, as this
report shows, the taxation that occurs in Burma is of such an arbitrary, corrupt
nature and negatively aects Burma’s economy and its people’s livelihood on
such a level, that it is grossly and systematically impacting on their human rights.
e military has transformed taxation from a routine and legitimate function of
government into extortion and a tool of repression. is destructive taxation system,
with its lack of basic public provisions, has crushed the people’s capacity to stand up
against the state of Burma as their need to focus on survival prevails.
3 PWO (2009)”Deforestation and unfair collection of tax in Ze Bankok village”, Shan State, Martus Bulletin
Family living in poverty in Mon State (HURFOM)
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“We have to give them so much that our stomachs are empty of food”
Corruption in Burma’s Taxation System
“ey have no rules on collecting tax. ey spread the gates between the
groups and collect money. Moreover, the amount is arbitrary and most of
the times they do not give receipts. If we have receipts, we can say that we
have already paid. But sometimes although we have receipts, they deny that
they were not the same groups. erefore it is not easy for us to do trade.
I am informed that people are facing diculties because they do not have
enough money to survive on because of the police who are serving in the
border township have been collecting unfair tax on or La Gi drivers and
local ethnic people.”
4
is report will show that the taxation system in Burma does not comply with
recognised norms. e system is neither fair, ecient nor exible, the size and
timing of many of the taxes imposed, which have been increasing in recent years, is
unpredictable making budgeting and planning impossible. Taxes are commonly not
linked to income or the capacity of households and businesses to pay, with the level
of taxation imposed on the population in many areas, being much too high relative
to income and prot.
Most of the taxes and resources taken by the state in Burma are not allocated to
services desired by the population but rather there exists long term neglect and poor
policy governing the provision of public goods. People are paying large amounts of
tax yet are receiving very limited public services and in some areas extremely limited
access to health services, electricity and water. Estimations are that less than 5% of
Burma’s budget is spent on health and welfare.
ND-Burma’s data shows that additionally, the level of corruption and extortion
imposed by government agencies and the army is high, meaning that families are not
just devastated by the amounts they are required to pay in taxes but also by a range of
other forced payments. Extortion is a common method used by individuals and the
state agencies to collect revenue, people are oen forced to pay inated taxes/fees to
individuals. erefore, in this report we additionally look at a range of corrupt acts
that occur under the guise of taxation including:-
taking of land, livestock and other assets, •
goods conscated and not returned until a payment is given, •
Tatmadaw and government ocials forcing people to pay arbitrary high •
payments at checkpoints,
forced “donations” for calendars, festivals, school buildings and school •
registration/equipment,
4 PWO (2009) “Tax on or La Gi in Nam Kham Township” State, Martus Bulletin
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the loss of earnings and health occurred or fees in order to avoid forced •
labour/child soldiers.
soldiers helping themselves to free supplies from stores, •
farmers being forced to grow certain crops and sell them at lower than •
market price to the army,
inated taxes or fees with the dierence lining individual government •
ocials’ pockets.
Burma’s public accounts are so inadequate that the information on tax revenue
is unlikely to even reect taxes raised by the country’s ocial system of taxation.
Additionally, the ocial system of taxation in terms of what is taxed bears little
relationship to the actual system of taxation, so the information about tax revenue
made available by Burma’s bureaucracy does not in any way indicate the actual size or
the sources of tax revenue.
More than 50% of the national budget is spent on the military, compared to the
meagre provisions it provides in health and social care. is disporportionately large
army imposes a heavy taxation burden that is not able to be supported by the size of
Burma’s economy. Senior members of the SPDC and their associates have siphoned
o the state’s most lucrative revenue sources, such as those from gas, minerals, gems
and wood.
Addtionally, the collection of taxes is poorly coordinated and suers from
administrative incompetence and dishonesty. ere are too many agencies collecting
taxes, including a predominance of the military and other armed groups, who at
times retain resources for their own personal gain. e entrenchment of military in
society has created a situation where, particularly in rural areas, there is no rule of
law, only the demands and power of the army.
“On average, villagers have to provide military government organizations
with more than 10,000 Kyat a month. Even though villagers have no food
to eat they still have to pay them. At the hands of the SPDC the villagers
have to work harder but they still have not enough food for their families.”
5
There is a correlation between presence of soldiers and the level of taxation and
the amount of resources taken from the people. e SPDC, has a deliberate policy
of limiting it’s nancing of the military personnel from the central budget, instead
giving between 300,000 and 400,000 soldiers in the Tatmadaw permission to take
large amounts of resources from the private sector and the people, in its “live o the
land” policy. e state and its collecting agencies not only take money but in rural
areas where people are less likely to have cash, cattle, livestock and belongings are
conscated. In some areas non-state actors additionally require villagers to support
them with food, payments and labour. For many villagers their crop or livestock is
5 HURFOM (2009) “ Meeting with a victim who was extorted by military government ocials in Bee Lin Township” Mon State, Martus Bulletin
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“We have to give them so much that our stomachs are empty of food”
their livelihood. When this is conscated and large fees demanded for their return,
the only way for villagers to survive is to sell some more of their cattle or to access
loans from other villagers or family members. As this situation is ongoing this results
in a cycle of debt and a constant inability to secure sustainable livelihood. is
involvement of the Tatmadaw and other armed groups in the collection and taking
of revenue and resources also enhances the regime’s control and suppression of the
population.
Human Rights
“We don’t know why the Light Infantry Battalion (LIB) comes to collect
taxes from our tea plantations and we don’t have the right to ask them
why. We get little benet from our tea plantation each year and it is just
good enough to sustain us. We can’t save money from our tea plantation
to pay additional things. So if we have to pay 20,000 Kyat for one acre, in a
year we need to pay 140,000 Kyat in total. It’s very dicult to collect this
money and pay. ey threatened us, telling us that if we would not pay, the
LIB would seize our plantation”.
6

Burma as a member of the United Nations (UN) and ASEAN has obligations which
it is not fullling. Even states that have not ratied international treaties on human
rights are bound to respect human rights principles that are part of “customary
law”, law that has gained universal acceptance in the international community. e
Universal Declaration of Human Rights is widely considered to be part of customary
law and therefore binding on all states, whether or not they have ratied subsequent
human rights treaties. Burma voted for the Universal Declaration; however, ND-
Burma evidences in this report the state of Burma failing to take progressive measures
and in particular to realise Articles 4, 17, 22 and 25. Burma has also signed the UN
Convention on Corruption and many of the actions recorded by ND-Burma are
deemed corruption under this convention.
e impact of the SPDC’s taxation system and the extortion carried out by its
collecting agencies and soldiers is the denial of many people’s right to an adequate
standard of living and their rights to health, housing, food and education.
Governments are responsible for creating the conditions in which their citizens can
exercise the full range of their human rights, including economic and social rights.
erefore, implementing a corrupt taxation system breaches this responsibility.
Human rights set out the basic minimum standards against which the actions (and
failures to act) of governments can be judged. is report highlights that the state
of Burma is implementing a system of corrupt taxation which; fails to comply with
any accepted norms, fails to stop the diversion of government revenues into private
6 TSYO (2009)” Illegal taxation for tea plantation owners” Shan State, Martus Bulletin
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pockets, fails to provide public services to cover the basic minimums of an adequate
standard of living and continues to fail to adhere to customary human rights law.
e people of Burma’s civil and political rights are also breached as there is no forum
for representation of choice in how taxes are allocated or spent, there have been no
elections in over 20 years and the last election result was ignored, with the junta
remaining in control. e arbitrary and punishing nature of the taxation system
in place, the corruption and the very limited provision of services has seriously
undermined the people’s willingness to pay taxes. is is likely to impose challenges
for installing any taxation system, fair or otherwise, for the government that will
be formed aer the 2010 elections. Additionally, according to the constitution
even aer the election the military will retain 25% of parliamentary seats, seriously
compromising any genuine democratic reform.
Tomas Ojea uintana, the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights recently stated
that the gross and systematic nature of human rights violations in Burma resulted
from SPDC policy and that some of these violations may constitute crimes against
humanity and war crimes. He has therefore called for a United Nations Commission
of Inquiry and ND-Burma’s data supports this recommendation as it shows the
SPDC use of corrupt acts, including forced labour to extort resources from the
people is occuring across Burma. is re-allocation of resources from the private to
the military and state, based on force has had, and continues to have, a large negative
impact on the standard of living of the country’s population.
Families eeing from Ye Byu Township in Tanintharyi Division because of human rights violations
including arbitrary taxation (HURFOM)
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“We have to give them so much that our stomachs are empty of food”
Key Recommendations
To the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC)
Recognise that the arbitrary taxation occurring violates human rights and end
impunity of those committing these acts and the policies that condone this by
removing the 2008 constitution’s Article 445 which states that no actions can be
taken against a state authority performing duties.
Reform the system of taxation in Burma, including increasing expenditure
on health and education, with public participation and in line with Burma’s
commitments as a member of ASEAN, namely the ASEAN charter and the
three ASEAN pillars of security, socio-cultural and economic integration.
7
Decrease expenditure on the military and cease the “live-o the land” policy
and the involvemnt of the military in taxation collection.
Cease national development projects which lead to unlawful taxation and
human rights abuses.
Stop the use of Forced Labour and Child Soldiers and full its obligations
under the ILO Conventions on Forced Labour and UN Convention on the
Rights of the Child.
To the International Community
Publically acknowledge the economic hardship and related Human Rights
abuses occurring and publically support the recommendation for a United
Nations Commission of Inquiry and genuine democratic reform.
IMF, World Bank, Asia Development Bank and other nancial
institutions:
Only provide support when able to ensure that standards for transparency,
accountability, governance and human rights are implemented.
Recognise publicly the minimal public services expenditure and the corrupt and
arbitrary taxation systems enforced by the SPDC.
e Asian Development Bank should cease providing technical assistance to
7 See full tax reform recommendations in conclusion and appendix
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Burma via loans or grants to the Greater Mekong Sub region programme, which
involves the military government, and publicly disclose the percentage of funds
already allocated to Burma’s military generals.
Multinational cooperation’s, foreign investors, donors and development
groups:
Practise revenue transparency and recognise publically that the taxes they pay go
directly to nancing the military and are not used to fund basic public services.
Ensure their projects have eective transparency and accountability
mechanisms and do not involve the military using forced labour and arbitrary
taxation.
ASEAN:
Call upon the SPDC to cease arbitrary and corrupt taxation practices and to
encourage democratic change.
Establish an independent body with a complaints mechanism to monitor the
arbitrary taxation occurring in Burma.
Call upon the SPDC to enable the people to participate in economic decisions
through free and fair elections in line with their obligations under the ASEAN
Charter.
To China, India & ailand:
Publically recognise that arbitrary taxation is one of the main causes of
migration and therefore put pressure on the SPDC to reform their taxation and
achieve democracy.
To the people of Burma
Raise awareness through the media and document the extent of the corruption
within the collection and distribution of taxes and the suering and human
rights violations this causes.
Share information with each other about how to document and complain about
corrupt actions and arbitrary taxation.
Wherever possible lodge formal complaints about experiences of arbitrary and
corrupt taxation and forced labour with the Village Peace and Development
Council and the ILO.
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“We have to give them so much that our stomachs are empty of food”
I. The Basic Norms of a Taxation System
Administration Costs
A tax system should be easy and relatively inexpensive to administer for individuals,
households, businesses and the taxation agencies. Administrative simplicity includes
low administration costs for the taxation agencies in terms of the assessment and
collection of taxes.
e “unocial” and arbitrary nature of most of the taxes collected in Burma means
that the agencies engaged in collecting taxes keep few records and therefore record
keeping costs are low. As most of the taxes are levied on a lump-sum basis, with
limited consideration given to capacity to pay, assessment costs are low. However,
the large number of agencies engaged in collecting taxes, rather than engaged in
productive activities and the direct method of collecting means that considerable
resources are allocated to collection. e number of “unocial” agencies engaged
in collecting taxes means that individuals, households and businesses do not have a
good idea about the size and timing of their tax liabilities, increasing the costs of the
tax system for the private sector.
Flexibility
A tax system should be able to respond easily (in some cases automatically) to
changes in economic circumstances.
In Burma the size of the taxes does not typically respond to changes in economic
circumstances, in particular to changes in income of individuals, households and
small businesses.
8
e main reason is that most taxes are lump-sum, and not based
on an assessment of income. Even though most people in Burma earn their living
from agriculture, taxes are levied without consideration to changes in agricultural
output, arising, say, from price changes and crop size.
9
Also taxes do not take into
account the agricultural cycle, with agricultural households’ facing high levels
of taxation, when little income from agriculture is earned.
10
A exible system
of taxation (in countries such as Burma where nancial institutions are under
8 HURFOM (2009) “Interview: Forced to pay various titles of fees including gas pipeline, village security and government run summer paddy project,” Mu-
don Township, Mon State, Martus Bulletin, 1 October; HURFOM (2009) “DKBA extorts money and food supplies from Karen State villagers,” Kyainnseikyi
Township, Kawkareik Township, Karen State, Martus Bulletin, 9 September.
9 HURFOM (2009) “Interview: Forced to pay various titles of fees including gas pipeline, village security and government run summer paddy project,” Mudon
Township, Moulmein District, Mon State, Martus Bulletin, 1 October; IMNA (2010) “Villagers strain under taxes aer prot loss from bad harvest,” Mudon
Township, Moulmein District, Mon State, Burma News International, 16 February - http://www.bnionline.net/news/imna/7913-villagers-strain-under-taxes-
aer-prot-loss-from-bad-harvest.html - accessed 25 February 2010; IMNA (2010) “New Customs Department land tax overburdens owners with acreage,”
Mudon and anbyuzayat Townships, Moulmein District, Mon State, Independent Mon News Agency, 1 March - http://www.bnionline.net/news/imna/7996-
new-customs-department-land-tax-overburdens-owners-with-acreage.html - accessed 2 March 2010.
10 HURFOM (2007) Villagers in Mon State are stuck with extortion imposed by Light Infantry Battalion No.31,” Ye Township, Moulmein District, Mon State,
Martus Bulletin, 7 September; KHRG (2009) “Exploitative abuse and villager responses in aton District,” aton District, Karen Human Rights Group, 25
November, p.10 - http://www.khrg.org/khrg2009/khrg09f20.pdf - accessed 23 March 2010.
report-2.indd 19 10-Jul-10 11:17:59
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developed) needs to consider the variation in income arising from the agricultural
cycle and changes in agricultural output.
Political Responsibility
No government is perfectly informed about the consequences of the decisions they
make with regard to taxation policy. Even governments intent on designing a system
of taxation that considers the preferences of the public nd it dicult to design a
taxation system, as all governments have limited information about the consequences
of taxation. Governments also have limited control over the responses of households
and businesses to any tax that is levied. Addtionally, taxation decisions in any
system are determined by a small group. Yet, even with these caveats, a tax system
can incorporate the desires of a country’s citizens, with democracy a mechanism
for eliciting of preferences. is means that the system should be designed so that
individuals, households and businesses can ascertain who has to pay, the timing and
amount, along with the purpose for which taxes are to be used, (which requires the
system to be accountable and transparent).
e above does not describe the situation in Burma, where there is no relationship
between the preferences of citizens and the county’s taxation system. Most taxes
are collected by groups that are engaged in the suppression and control of people
and their property. Individuals, households and businesses do not have a clear
understanding of whom to pay taxes, when these have to be paid and how much is to
be paid. ere are no mechanisms that promote the accountability and transparency
of taxing agencies. In some places in Burma, if you are brave enough to confront
the local ocials it might be possible to negotiate a lower tax.
11
However, it is more
likely that complaints to the authorities will be met with physical intimidation
and punishment.
12
In many areas no-one complains to the local authorities about
taxation, due to the physical punishments that have been metered out by the local
Tatmadaw and the local militia forces, against people who do not pay their taxes.
13

Fairness
e tax system should be fair in its relative treatment of dierent individuals and
households, which entails considering two basic concepts of equity.
11 Interview 7, Female; Balu Island; Chaungzon Township, Moulmein District; Mon State – 28 August 2009 Mae Sot, Witness.
12 Khatter Non (2010) “Villagers cowed in fear aer arbitrary killing by Burmese army,” Yebyu Township, Tavoy District, Tenasserim Division, Independent Mon
News Agency, 25 February - http://www.bnionline.net/news/imna/7987-villagers-cowed-in-fear-aer-arbitrary-killing-by-burmese-army.html - accessed 7 April
2010; KHRG (2009) “Exploitative abuse and villager responses in aton District,” aton District, Karen Human Rights Group, 25 November - http://www.
khrg.org/khrg2009/khrg09f20.pdf - accessed 23 March 2010; KHRG (2009) “SPDC and DKBA order documents: August 2008 to June 2009,” Karen Human
Rights Group, August - http://www.khrg.org/khrg2009/khrg0904.pdf - accessed 23 March 2010.
13 HURFOM (2007) “Interview with forced labour victim from Khaw-Zar Sub Township,” Martus Bulletin, 10 April; HURFOM (2009) “Interview: Forced to pay
various titles of fees including gas pipeline, village security and government run summer paddy project,” Mudon Township, Moulmein District, Mon State, Martus
Bulletin, 1 October.
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“We have to give them so much that our stomachs are empty of food”
e rst principal is that of horizontal equity where individuals, who are the same in
all relevant respects are treated equally. Such a tax system does not discriminate on
the basis of ethnicity, religion, gender, marital status or age. Violations of principals
of horizontal equity do not appear to be endemic in the ocial and unocial
systems of taxation in Burma, except for the discrimination in the levying of taxes
on the Rohingya. ere will however be dierences in the level of taxation between
ethnic groups arising from the numbers of soldiers in the border states, compared
to the predominantly Burman areas. e second principal is that of vertical equity.
is is based on the idea that individuals and households that are in a position to pay
higher taxes should do so. Vertical equity can be assessed by comparing the eective
tax rate for individuals and households at dierent levels of income.
Eective Rate of Tax = T/I
Where
T = Amount of tax paid by an individual or household
I = Individual’s or household’s total income
A tax system is classied as regressive, proportional or progressive based on the
relative amounts an individual or household pays in tax at dierent levels of income.
A taxation system is progressive when the tax rate (T/I) for the rich is more than
the tax rate for those on lower levels of income. e tax system is classied as
proportional when the tax rate is the same for all, regardless of the level of income.
e tax system is regressive when those on lower incomes are subject to a higher tax
rate than those on higher incomes.
Given that most of Burma’s taxes are ‘unocial’ (coupled with the diculties of
doing research in Burma); it is not possible to undertake a comprehensive analysis
of the tax rates on individual and household (and business) income. However, the
available evidence suggests that the taxing agencies rarely or only roughly assess
the income level of households or prot levels of small businesses, with most taxes
levied as a lump-sum. is means that people with a lower income and businesses
with the smallest prot margins are eectively taxed at a higher rate. e regressive
system of taxation is coupled with numerous controls imposed by the state and its
associated agencies over the use of resources.ese controls and the regular (though
unpredictable) appropriation of private sector resources by the state makes it dicult
for the private sector to operate and compete with state sponsored businesses.
Economic Efficiency
Another characteristic of a well-designed tax system is that it does not interfere with
the ecient allocation of resources. is considers the impact that taxation has on
economic activity and the choices individuals, households and businesses make in
response to dierent taxes. In assessing the economic impacts, taxes are viewed as
report-2.indd 21 10-Jul-10 11:17:59
22
Network for Human Rights Documentation – Burma
non-distortionary or distortionary. Taxes are non-distortionary when individuals,
households and businesses do not react to the tax, i.e. there is nothing the entity
being taxed can do to alter their tax liability. Lump-sum taxes are regarded as
non-distortionary taxes as people have to pay regardless of their income or wealth
levels, making it more dicult for people to change their behaviour to avoid taxes,
than other types of taxes. Lump sum taxes, as they are not distortionary, allow
governments to raise more revenue. However, the major impact of lump-sum taxes
on individuals, households and businesses is that they lower income. is has a
serious impact on people’s livelihoods when the households paying lump-sum taxes
have very limited incomes and when prot margins of business are meagre. Lump-
sum taxes on individuals and households may be non-distortionary, but they violate
the principle of vertical equity, as the poorer are subject to higher rates of taxation.
Lump-sum taxes in Burma decrease the already low levels of income to such an
extent that some households are unable to purchase basic consumption items. ere
are many reports that this taxation is so high that some people are forced to sell o
assets to cover the taxes levied.
14
For some households the high level of taxation has
caused households to send members to ailand and other countries to work.
15
e
available information does not allow for estimates of the percentage of households
aected, but evidence suggests that in Arakan, Karen and Mon States and Tenasserim
Division these problems are widespread. e impact of taxes on eciency in
Burma is complex and dicult to assess, as any tax has many potential economic
consequences, which include short and long term impacts. It is not possible to assess
all the impacts of distortionary taxes levied in Burma, but the general aect has been
to lower private sector productivity, decrease the number of protable economic
exchanges and decrease private sector investment, all of which contribute to lower
overall economic growth.
14 HURFOM (2009) “Meeting with a victim who was extorted by military government ocials in Beelin Township,” Beelin Township, aton District, Mon State,
Martus Bulletin, 1 June; PWO (2009) “Tax on belongings and households in Pan Swe Village,” Maington Township, Maing Hsat District, Shan State, Martus
Bulletin, 10 July.
15 HURFOM (2007) “Myanmar Women’s Aair Federation collected money and forces young women to join,” Karen State, 4 April; HURFOM (2009)
“Corruption and arbitrary taxation on road repairs in Hangan,” Ye Township, Moulmein District, Mon State, e Mon Forum, 15 July – http://rehmonnya.org/
archives/979#more-979 – accessed 26 February 2010.
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23
“We have to give them so much that our stomachs are empty of food”
Carrying crops from a farm, Mon State (HURFOM)
report-2.indd 23 10-Jul-10 11:17:59
24
Network for Human Rights Documentation – Burma
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report-2.indd 24 10-Jul-10 11:17:59
25
“We have to give them so much that our stomachs are empty of food”
II. The Economic Impact of Burma’s Taxation System
T
here are several sources of income and wealth that are generally considered
to be acceptable to tax, and these include taxes levied on personal income,
corporate or company prots, property, and goods and services. Burma
does have legislation governing the levying of taxation on these sources, but this
gives little indication of the actual system of ‘taxation’, which includes forced labour,
forced purchases of unwanted goods and services from the state and the the of land,
animals and other property. ese ‘taxes’ are a central component of this report, as to
ignore them (and to only analyse ocial taxation and standard sources of taxation)
would seriously misrepresent the state’s access to private sector revenue and resources,
and consequently the impacts this has on people’s livelihood and the private sector.
e precarious economic situations for many households in Burma means that taxes
can cause households (and businesses) to lose even their limited assets, children to
drop out of school, and people to migrant to border countries.
16

Taxation on Households
Who Collects the Taxation on Households?
Much of the taxation levied on households (though the percentages are unknown)
is undertaken by the Township Peace and Development Council (TPDC)/Village
Peace and development Council (VPDC) and the locally based Tatmadaw.
17
In
some areas the TPDC/VPDC collect taxes for the local Tatmadaw.
18
In some areas
ceasere groups also collect taxes to provide rations and income for soldiers and
their families.
19
It is also common for the Tatmadaw and ceasere groups to levy a
specic amount of money on a village, leaving the internal allocation of the tax to the
VPDC.
20
ere are also many other agencies associated with the state that engage in
taxing households, including the police, re-brigades, and Government Organised
NGOs such as the Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA),
Myanmer Maternal and Child Welfare Association (MMCWA) and the Myanmar
Woman’s Aairs Federation (MWAF).
21
ese agencies are defacto arms of the state,
16 HURFOM (2009) “Interview: Forced to pay various titles of fees including gas pipeline, village security and government run summer paddy project,” Mudon
Township, Moulmein District, Mon State, Martus Bulletin, 1 October; Interview 3 Female, Mae Sot 25 August 2009, Witness.
17 Burma Issues (2008) “Forced labour in Taungoo District,” Taungoo District, Pegu Division, Martus Bulletin, 3 July. Burma Issues (2008) “Forced labour in
Nyaunglibin District,” Kyaukkyi Township, Toungoo District, Pegu Division, Martus Bulletin, 3 July; HURFOM (2009) “Interview: Forced to pay various titles
of fees including gas pipeline, village security and government run summer paddy project,” Mudon Township, Mon State, Martus Bulletin, 1 October; PWO
(2009) “Various taxes in Ze Tong Hone Village,” Namhsan Township, Kyaukme District, Shan State, Martus Bulletin, May.
18 HURFOM (2009) “Arbitrary taxes increasing in Mudon Township,” Mudon Township, Moulmein District, Mon State, Martus Bulletin, 5 September.
19 HURFOM (2009) “Interview with extortion victim form Beelin Township,” Beelin Township, aton District, Mon State, Martus Bulletin, 1 October;
HURFOM (2009) “Myawaddy residents caught in clash over rice contributions,” Myawaddy Township, Kawkareik District, Karen State, Martus Bulletin,
10 October; HURFOM (2009) “DKBA extorts money and food supplies from Karen State villagers,” Kyainnseikyi Township, Kawkareik Township, Karen
State, Martus Bulletin, 9 September; HURFOM (2009) “Villagers were forced to pay by insurgent group and SPDC soldiers,” Yebyu Township, Tavoy District,
Tenasserim Division, 7 August. Excessive DKBA extortion targets hard-hit elephant owners, December 1, 2009, http://rehmonnya.org/archives/1221
20 HURFOM (2010) “DKBA extortion plagues Kawkareik Township in 2010,” Kawkareik Township, Kawkareik District, Karen State , 18 February- http://
rehmonnya.org/archives/979#more-979 – accessed 26 February 2010.
21 HURFOM (2007) “Myanmar Women’s Aairs Federation collected money and forces young women to join,” Karen State, 4 April; HURFOM (2009) “Interview
with extortion victim form Beelin Township,” Beelin Township, aton District, Mon State, Martus Bulletin, 1 October – 14 November; KWAT (2007) “Collec-
tion for the monks in Munggu Village,” Muse Township, Muse District, Shan State, Martus Bulletin, May.
report-2.indd 25 10-Jul-10 11:17:59
26
Network for Human Rights Documentation – Burma
they have been formed by the SPDC to look like NGOs and to give the impression
that the state is democratic.
22
ese agencies mostly do not coordinate their levying
of taxes, with households having to pay a ra of taxes to dierent agencies and groups
associated with the state.
23
is lack of coordination between the taxing agencies
means that the timing and size of household taxes is riddled with uncertainty. is
uncertainty means that households cannot plan the payment of their taxes, which is a
basic requirement of fair system of taxation.
What are the Taxes Used for?
e available public records provide little information on the size, and none on
the allocation, of these taxes. However, evidence suggests that a large percentage
of the taxes collected are not allocated to the provision of services desired by the
population. Instead, reports indicate that household taxes are used to cover the
administration costs and incomes of TPDC/VPDC.
24
ere are also many examples
where the TPDC/VPDC and local Tatmadaw allocate a large proportion of the
taxes collected to their private incomes and activities.
25
Taxes can also be used to
provide income and rations for members of the Tatmadaw.
26
Other taxes are used on
celebrations and “beautication” for visiting military ocials.
27
Sometimes taxes are
levied to cover the travel costs of senior Tatmadaw members travelling in the area.
28

Even when there may be a legitimate reason for taxation, there are questions about
the ecacy of the service that is being funded.
29
For example, in Myitkyina Township
in 2008 people with telephone numbers beginning with the prex 25 were charged
550,000 Kyat to have their numbers changed, aer problems arose with the service.
Customers had no idea about the relationship between the size of the charge, the
reasons for the problem and the costs of its resolution.
30
It is also common that
22 Naím, Moisés: Democracy’s Dangerous Impostors, e Washington Post, 21 April 2007, Network for democracy and Development Documentation and
Research Department, e White Shirts, How the USDA will become the new face of Burma’s Dictatorship 2006
23 KHRG (2007) “State repression and the creation of poverty in southern Karen State,” Kawkareik District, Karen State, 23 February - http://www.khrg.org/
khrg2007/khrg07f2.html - accessed 22 February 2010.
24 HURFOM (2006) “Monthly Tax for village militia force, village security and re prevention,” anbyuzayat Township, Moulmein District, Mon State, Martus
Bulletin, 1 January; HURFOM (2006) “Monthly Tax for village militia force, village security and re prevention” anbyuzayat Township, Moulmein District,
Mon State, Martus Bulletin, 1 January; HURFOM (2009) “Motorbikes and money taken from Yebyu township residents,” Yebyu Township, Tavoy District,
Tenasserim Division, Martus Bulletin, 1 January.
25 HURFOM (2006) “Monthly Tax for village militia force, village security and re prevention,” anbyuzayat Township, Moulmein District, Mon State, Martus
Bulletin, 1 January; HURFOM (2009) “Motorbikes and money taken from Yebyu township residents,” Yebyu Township, Tavoy District, Tenasserim Division,
Martus Bulletin, 1 January; KHRG (2005) “Dooplaya District: Fighting and human rights abuse still continue aer ceasere,” Karen Human Rights Group, 18
February - http://www.khrg.org/khrg2005/khrg05f1.html - accessed 19 February 2010; SHAN (2008) “Junta collects taxes on home entertainment,” Maington
Township, Maing Hsat District, Shan State, Shan Herald Agency for News, 21 February - http://www.shanland.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=a
rticle&id=1518%3Ajunta-collects-taxes-on-home-entertainment&Itemid=301 – accessed 17 February 2010; PWO (2009) “Fire sentry and communal taxes in
Aong Chan Tar village,” Nankham Township, Muse District, Shan State, Martus Bulletin, 24 December.
26 HURFOM (2007) “Villagers in Mon State are stuck with extortion imposed by Light Infantry Battalion No.31,” Ye Township, Moulmein District, Mon State,
Martus Bulletin, 7 September; HURFOM (2009) “Interview: Forced to pay money to security forces,” Mudon Township, Moulmein District, Mon State, Martus
Bulletin, 1 October; Peacerunning (2009) “Military increasing in Ye Township,” Ye Township, Moulmein District, Mon State, Democracy for Burma, 7 October
– http://democracyforburma.wordpress.com/2009/10/07/military-increasing-in-ye-township/ - accessed 15 February 2009
27 Burma Issues (2009) “SPDC held a festival using villagers money,” Pa’an Township, Pa’an District , Karen State, Martus Bulletin, 10 October; KWAT (2009) “e
villagers forced to pay money” Putao Township, Putao District, Kachin State, Martus Bulletin, 6 January; KWAT (2008) “Students were forced to pay money,”
Myitkyina Township, Myitkyina District, Kachin State, Martus Bulletin, 1 November; TSYO (2009) “Forced labour,” Namhsan Township, Kyaukme District,
Shan State, Martus Bulletin, 20 May;
28 PWO (2009) “Various taxes in Namhsan Township,” Namhsan Township, Kyaukme District, Shan State, Martus Bulletin, 28 August.
29 KNG (2008) “Living under duress in Kachin State,” Myitkyina Township, Myitkyina District, Kachin State, 30 September - http://www.kachinnews.com/
Commentary/Living-under-duress-in-Kachin-State.html - accessed 23 February 2010; TSYO (2009) “Youth forced to attend re-ghter training by authorities,”
Nankham Township, Muse District, Shan State, Martus Bulletin, 2 October.
30 KNG (2008) “Living under duress in Kachin State,” Myitkyina Township, Myitkyina District, Kachin State, 30 September - http://www.kachinnews.com/
Commentary/Living-under-duress-in-Kachin-State.html - accessed 23 February 2010.
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27
“We have to give them so much that our stomachs are empty of food”
people do not know the reason for the taxes being levied.
31
Taxes on Household Income
e Income Tax Law (1974) governs the collection of personal income (and
business) tax in Burma, which on paper levies progressive rates of taxation beginning
at 3% and increasing to 30% as income, increases.
32
On-budget (recorded) income
tax collected in Burma, at least between the 2004/05 and 2008/09 nancial years,
ranged between a 43 and 53 percentage of total tax revenue, which is considerably
larger than comparable poor countries.
33
However, this legislation is a veneer for
a veracious state that imposes a regressive and high level of taxation on personal
income, at least in some areas of Burma. e Internal Revenue Department in
the Ministry of Finance is ocially assigned with the legislative responsibility for
collecting personal income tax, but many of the taxes levied on household incomes
are not levied by this government department. In their stead are many other
agencies associated with the state, competing to collect taxes on households. ere
is some evidence from dierent areas of Burma that the SPDC is conducting a
comprehensive registration of household assets, including land size, livestock, carts,
motorbikes and telephones to use as the basis to broaden the tax base.
34

Taxes on household income levied by the dierent agencies of the state in Burma are
not always based on the level of the household’s income.
35
When they are based on
income, the assessment of income is roughly estimated, with tax scales relatively at,
and not conforming to ocial rates of taxation. Addtionally, many of the taxes are
levied on a lump-sum basis, which means that the eective rate of tax is higher the
poorer the household.
36
Typically these taxes are levied each month.
e biggest inuence on the size of monthly taxation is location, and not income,
with signicant variation even within the same state or division. e most
information about the taxation on household income comes from Mon and Karen
States and Tenasserim Division, where the Tatmadaw and other armed groups
regularly levy taxes on households. For example, in some areas of anbyuzayat
Township in Mon State between January 2006 and May 2007 households were
taxed each month between 450 and 500 Kyat , with the variation based on estimated
income.
37
In another area in the same township, and across the same period
households were levied a monthly tax varying between 500 and 1,000 Kyat.
38
By
31 PWO (2009) “Various taxes in Ze Tong Hone Village,” Namhsan Township, Kyaukme District, Shan State, Martus Bulletin, May.
32 Burmese citizens (which include non-residents) and foreigners earning foreign currency are taxed at higher rates between 35-40 percent) – KPMG (1995) Invest-
ment in Myanmar, KPMG, Singapore, October, p.39.
33 http://www.csostat.gov.mm – accessed 17 September 2009; Personal income taxes are (typically) a much smaller percentage of tax revenue in poor versus rich
countries, as this method of taxation is costly and dicult to collect income tax from large numbers of poor people. Also governments typically devote little
resources to collecting taxes from the very wealthy.
34 KHRG (2007) “State repression and the creation of poverty in southern Karen State,” Kawkareik District, Karen State, 23 February - http://www.khrg.org/
khrg2007/khrg07f2.html - accessed 22 February 2010; PWO (2009) “Tax on belongings and households in Pan Swe Village,” Mongton Township, Kyaukme
District, Shan State, Martus Bulletin, 10 July.
35 PWO (2009) “Tax on belongings and households in Pan Swe Village,” Mongton Township, Kyaukme District, Shan State, Martus Bulletin, 10 July; PWO (2009)
“Various taxes in Ze Tong Hone village,” Namhsan Township, Kyaukme District, Shan State, Martus Bulletin, May.
36 KWAT (2009) “Forced to sell rice at discount to government and education fee in Nawng Hkai,” Putao Township, Putao District, Kachin State, Martus Bulletin.
37 HURFOM (2006) “Monthly Tax for village militia force, village security and re prevention” anbyuzayat Township, Moulmein District, Mon State, Martus
Bulletin, 1 January.
38 Ibid.
report-2.indd 27 10-Jul-10 11:17:59
28
Network for Human Rights Documentation – Burma
2009, on available evidence household taxes across Mon State varied between 1,200
and 10,000 Kyat per month.
39
Again taxes on households even within the same
Township varied signicantly. For example households in Ye Township in 2009
in some areas reported paying taxes between 1,200 and 1,500 Kyat each month.
40

Whereas in another area of Ye Township the tax on households were considerably
higher at 10,000 Kyat per month.
41

Furthermore, the absolute amount of taxes levied on households in at least Mon
and Karen States and Tenasserim Division have been increasing since 2004.
42
For
example, in some areas of anbyuzayat Township in Mon State taxes on households
in 2006 were between 500 and 1,000 Kyat, but by 2009 these had increased to
3,500 and 4,500 Kyat.
43
In Mudon Township household cash taxes in 2004 varied
between 1,500 and 4,500 Kyat per month. However, by August 2009, the taxes on
at least some of these households were around 10,000 Kyat per month.
44
Part of
this increase arose from a shi in the method of extracting resources by the local
Tatmadaw charged with guarding the gas pipeline. Prior to August 2009, resources
were extracted by forcing people without compensation to guard the pipeline. Aer
August 2009 the local Tatmadaw levied cash taxes and began guarding the pipeline
themselves. In another area in Mudon Township, total monthly cash taxes levied on
households were reported at similar high levels, between 11,000 and 12,000 Kyat.
Addtionally, between 2,500 and 3,000 Kyat were levied for the stated reason of
providing security for the pipeline. Another 3,000 Kyat was to provide income for
village militia; whilst between 5,500 and 6,000 Kyat was to provide revenue to the
various GONGOs.
45
is was in a situation where there had been large increases in
the price of food, which had not been accompanied by increases in the nominal daily
wage, and with the highest daily wage being only 3,500 Kyat. is was coupled with
increasing unemployment caused by the movement of people from middle and upper
Burma into the area, also in search of employment.
46

Similarly, in some areas of Ye Township in Mon State, cash taxes on some households
increased from 2,000 Kyat per month in 2007 to 10,000 Kyat in 2009.
47
In some
of the areas in Ye District households with rubber and betel nut plantations were
able to cover production costs and cover basic living expenses, though the level of
cash taxation on households is so high that many households have sent children to
39 HURFOM (2009) “Burmese government employees increase arbitrary taxation in Mon State,” Mon State, 11 August – http://rehmonnya.org/archives/1003 -
accessed 5/09/2009; HURFOM (2009) “Corruption and arbitrary taxation on road repairs in Hangan,” Ye Township, Moulmein District, Mon State, e Mon
Forum, 15 July – http://rehmonnya.org/archives/979#more-979 – accessed 26 February 2010; Peacerunning (2009) “Military increasing in Ye Township,” Ye
Township, Moulmein District, Mon State, Democracy for Burma, 7 October http://democracyforburma.wordpress.com/2009/10/07/military-increasing-in-ye-
township/ - accessed 15 February 2009;
40 Peacerunning (2009) “Military increasing in Ye Township,” Ye Township, Moulmein District, Mon State, Democracy for Burma, 7 October – http://
democracyforburma.wordpress.com/2009/10/07/military-increasing-in-ye-township/ - accessed 15 February 2009.
41 HURFOM (2009) “Corruption and arbitrary taxation on road repairs in Hangan,” Ye Township, Moulmein District, Mon State, e Mon Forum, 15 July –
http://rehmonnya.org/archives/979#more-979 – accessed 26 February 2010.
42 KNG (2008) “Living under duress in Kachin State,” Myitkyina Township, Myitkyina District, Kachin State, 30 September - http://www.kachinnews.com/
Commentary/Living-under-duress-in-Kachin-State.html - accessed 23 February 2010.
43 HURFOM (2009) “Burmese government employees increase arbitrary taxation in Mon State,” Mon State, 11 August – http://rehmonnya.org/archives/1003 -
accessed 5/09/2009;
44 Ibid.
45 HURFOM (2009) “Interview: Forced to pay various titles of fees including gas pipeline, village security and government run summer paddy project,” Mudon
Township, Moulmein District, Mon State, Martus Bulletin, 1 October.
46 Ibid.
47 HURFOM (2007) “Villagers in Mon State are stuck with extortion imposed by Light Infantry Battalion No.31,” Ye Township, Moulmein District Mon State,
Martus Bulletin, 7 September.
report-2.indd 28 10-Jul-10 11:17:59
29
“We have to give them so much that our stomachs are empty of food”
ailand to earn additional income.
48
ere have more recently been increases in
cash taxes on households as the dierent agencies associated with the state prepare
for the election scheduled to be held in 2010.
49
Some of these taxes appear to be
fundraising to pay for the regime’s election campaign, and others are arising from the
uncertainty created by the election, with some groups fearing a loss of future income
raising opportunities.
Taxes are also specically levied to provide revenue to the GONGO’s particularly
the MMCWA, and the USDA.
50
Most of these taxes are levied as a lump-sum,
with the size of the tax varying on the basis of geography. In some areas in Mudon
Township households in 2009 were paying between 5,500 and 6,000 Kyat each
month to the GONGOs, creating serious diculties for the poor households in the
area.
51
In Karen State the levying of taxes on household appears to be less systematic
than those levied in Mon State (though the funds raised are not necessarily less). e
reports suggest that many of the taxes imposed by the Tatmadaw and the DKBA
are levied on the village, rather than directly on each household. is means that
the village heads then have to determine the tax liability of each household.
52
Also,
villages in Karen State appear to have been particularly subject to the levying of taxes
by the GONGOs. For example, the MWAF began levying fees across Karen State
from the beginning of 2007, levying a monthly tax of 1,000 Kyat for each girl in the
household.
53

Taxes on Property
Burma also has legislation that governs the taxation of property (Court Fees Act
1937 and the Myanmar Stamp Act 1935). Property taxes are ocially collected
by the Internal Revenue Department in the Ministry of Finance. In Burma, as in
many poor countries, wealth (property and other assets) is heavily concentrated
and is a major determinant of unequal incomes. Property taxes are cheaper and
administratively simpler to collect (as it is easier to see who is asset rich) than
personal income tax. Although typically property taxes in poorer countries account
for only a small percentage of tax revenue, which accords with Burma’s ocial
statistics. e Myanmar Stamp Act 1935 governs the taxes to be imposed on the
transfer of property, though this has little bearing in a country where most land
transfers between private citizens are informal and the transfer of land to the state is
typically forced by the latter. Nevertheless the state produces ocial statistics that
48 HURFOM (2009) “Corruption and arbitrary taxation on road repairs in Hangan,” Ye Township, Moulmein District, Mon State, e Mon Forum, 15 July –
http://rehmonnya.org/archives/979#more-979 – accessed 26 February 2010.
49 IMNA “New Customs Department land tax overburdens owners with acreage,” Mudon and anbyuzayat Townships, Moulmein District, Mon State, Indepen-
dent Mon News Agency, 1 March - http://www.bnionline.net/news/imna/7996-new-customs-department-land-tax-overburdens-owners-with-acreage.html - ac-
cessed 2 March 2010;
50 HURFOM (2009) “Interview: Forced to pay various titles of fees including gas pipeline, village security and government run summer paddy project,” Mudon
Township, Moulmein District, Mon State, Martus Bulletin, 1 October; Interview 3 Female, Mae Sot 25 August 2009, Witness; KHRG (2009) “SPDC and
DKBA order documents: August 2008 to June 2009,” Karen Human Rights Group, August - http://www.khrg.org/khrg2009/khrg0904.pdf - accessed 23 March
2010.
51 HURFOM (2009) “Interview: Forced to pay various titles of fees including gas pipeline, village security and government run summer paddy project,” Mudon
Township, Moulmein District, Mon State, Martus Bulletin, 1 October.
52 KHRG (2009) “SPDC and DKBA order documents: August 2008 to June 2009,” Karen Human Rights Group, August - http://www.khrg.org/khrg2009/
khrg0904.pdf - accessed 23 March 2010.
53 HURFOM (2007) “Myanmar Women’s Aair Federation collected money and forces young women to join,” Karen State, Martus Bulletin, 4 April.
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30
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report that taxes from land transfer are less than one percent and no more than 1.5%
of total taxes (in the last ve years).
54

e nature of Burma’s state means, that in eect the most common “tax” on property
is conscation by the state carried out by agencies without any legislative authority to
conscate property. is conscation is arbitrary in the sense that it is not governed
by any policy designed (or intended) to enhance the public good. ough, it is
not arbitrary in the sense that it is designed to enrich local representatives of the
Tatmadaw and other agencies associated with the state. Property in the context of
this report includes basic items, such as livestock and utensils, as even these can be
taken by the unocial tax collecting agencies. is type of “taxation” by the state
not only lowers the income of households, but lowers their capacity to earn future
income, destroying productive assets, which in many cases have been built over
generations. It additionally results in lowering the level of private sector investment
and the growth of Burma’s economy, guaranteeing the impoverishment of the current
and future generations.
Property Tax on land and house for 6 months, 1200 Kyat, (1.2 US$) (HREIB)
Residential Property: Relatively new taxes for at least some areas of Burma are taxes
on residential land and houses. is tax now appears to be levied in many areas of
Burma, though the year of its introduction has varied considerably. For example, in
Mudon Township in Mon State the tax was rst levied in 2007; whereas in at least
some areas of Ye Township in the same state a monthly tax on residential housing
54 http://www.csostat.gov.mm – accessed 17 September 2009.
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31
“We have to give them so much that our stomachs are empty of food”
was introduced in 2003. is does not mean that some properties in Ye were not
taxed prior to 2003 as one report has them being taxes in 1996.
55
Another report
has annual property taxes being introduced in 2008 in Mong Pan Township in Shan
State.
56

Even though the tax on housing appears now to be relatively common across Burma,
the tax rate on similar housing has varied considerably. Taxes levied on land are based
on estimates of the value of the land. Taxes on residential land, at least in Rangoon
Township, are common and reports suggest they are not large.
57
Taxes on housing
are also based on value determined by the materials of construction and the number
of stories. Since, 2009 in Nankham Township in Shan State an annual tax has been
levied on residential property, varying between 1,300 and 4,000 Kyat depending
upon the materials used in their construction.
58
In contrast, taxes on residential
housing in Ye Township in Mon State began in 2003 and were imposed on a monthly
basis, until the middle of 2009. Wooden houses with thatched roofs were taxed 600
Kyat per month; whilst wooden houses with iron roofs were taxed 1,000 Kyat per
month and cement houses were taxed 1,500 Kyat each month.
59
However, in July
2009 the method of levying taxes on residential housing in Ye Township changed,
with households forced to pay these taxes in an annual instalment.
60
e annual tax
also introduced a new category of houses (two storey houses), which increased the
dierentiation in the amount of taxes levied. e annual tax was levied at 2,800 Kyat
for a wooden house with a thatch roof, 3,500 Kyat for a wooden house with an iron
roof, 7,000 Kyat for a two storey house and 15,000 Kyat for a cement/brick house.
is meant that the total nominal tax on property was signicantly lower, especially
for the poorer quality dwellings, than under the previous method. However, the
levying of the tax in one instalment meant that those without savings were forced to
borrow increasing their debt levels. ose who could not pay the tax were threatened
with the conscation of their property. In Mong Pan Township in Shan State in
2008 an unannounced tax on the most expensive houses in the town was levied by
representatives from the district Excise Department.
61
e size of the tax was based
on rough estimates of the value of the homes. Households were only given six days’
notice to pay the tax.
62
In Myitkyina Township in Kachin State taxes are again levied
depending on the type of housing, with available information indicating that the
annual tax varies between 5,000 and 10,000 Kyat.
63
Construction of New Housing: In 2009 a tax on newly constructed houses has
55 KHRG (1996) “Forced labour in Mon areas,” Ye Township, Moulmein District, Mon State, Karen Human Rights Group, 22 May - http://www.khrg.org/khrg96/
khrg9620.html - accessed 21 February 2010.
56 SHAN (2008) “Authorities to levy house tax in Southern Shan State,” Mong Pan Township, Langkher District, Shan State, Shan Herald Agency for News,
23 February - http://www.shanland.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1528%3Aauthorities-levy-house-tax-in-southern-shan-
state&Itemid=301 – accessed 17 February 2010.
57 Interview 3 Female, Mae Sot 25/08/09, Witness – Rangoon Township, Rangoon Division. e taxes are levied every 3 months.
58 PWO (22010) “House tax in Aong Chan Tar village,” Nankham Township, Muse District, Shan State, Martus Bulletin, January.
59 HURFOM (2009) “Ye Township households must pay year’s housing tax upfront, Ye Township, Moulmein District, Mon State, 22 August http://rehmonya.org/
archives/1025 - accessed 4 September 2009.
60 Ibid.
61 SHAN (2008) “Authorities to levy house tax in Southern Shan State,” Shan Herald Agency for News, Mong Pan Township, Langkher District, Shan State,
23 February - http://www.shanland.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1528%3Aauthorities-levy-house-tax-in-southern-shan-
state&Itemid=301 – accessed 17 February 2010.
62 Ibid.
63 KWAT (2008) “Tax on homes in Du Mare,” Myitkyina Township, Kachin State, Martus Bulletin, December.
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Network for Human Rights Documentation – Burma
been increasingly levied across Burma on houses constructed since 2007.
64
e tax
was rst levied in 2009 and collected by representatives from the TPDC and VPDC.
e size of the tax is typically determined by the number of storeys and the materials
used in construction, which provides a rough estimate of the costs of construction
and consequently capacity to pay. In September 2009, public meetings were held
in some of the villages in Mudon Township where representatives from the TPDC
announced that owners of houses constructed since 2007 were liable for a new tax.
65

On the 25 March 2010 the TPDC announced and attempted to tax owners of
new homes in all of the villages in Mudon Township.
66
Widespread inability to pay
and complaints of double taxation led to the collection of the tax to be deferred to
April.
67
e size of the tax depended upon the materials used in their construction.
Owners of newly constructed wooden houses had to pay a tax of 200,000 Kyat.
Owners of one and two story houses made of cement had to pay, 300,000 Kyat and
450,000 Kyat, respectively.
68
In 2009, in Chaungzon Township also in Mon State
the minimum tax on newly constructed houses was reported at a much lower rate at
60,000 Kyat.
69

In one area of Pa’an Township in Karen State the tax levied on new houses that had
been constructed since 2007, was much higher varying between 1.1 and 1.4 million
Kyat levied exclusively on the most expensive homes.
70
In another area of Pa’an
Township the tax levied was the same regardless of the quality, at 200,000 Kyat per
house.
71
As households did not know the tax was to be levied when they built their
new homes resources were not allocated for the tax. Households were only given
a month to pay, meaning that some households had to borrow money or sell o
agricultural land.
72

Taxes can also be levied on repairs and improvements to existing housing.
73
Based on
existing reports home owners are not aware that taxes should be paid, until aer the
repairs and improvements have taken place. Furthermore, the households did not
know if the fees levied were taxes or nes for not adhering to “regulations” of which
they had no knowledge.
(Non-Land) Assets: Taxes can be levied on household items. For example, in
Maington Township in Shan State, the local Tatmadaw commander levied taxes on
households with TVs, VCD players and satellite dishes.
74
In larger towns satellite
64 HURFOM (2009) “Residents were ordered to pay huge amounts of taxes on Mudon Township,” Mudon Township, Moulmein District, Mon State, Martus
Bulletin, 1 September.
65 HURFOM (2009) “Residents were ordered to pay huge amounts of taxes on Mudon Township,” Mudon Township, Moulmein District, Mon State, Martus
Bulletin, 1 September.
66 IMNA (2010) “Mudon TPDC nally collects long-threatened housing tax,” Independent Mon News Agency, 29 March - http://www.bnionline.net/news/
imna/8225-mudon-tpdc-nally-collects-long-threatened-housing-tax.html - accessed 7 April 2010.
67 Ibid.
68 Ibid.
69 Interview 7, Female; Balu Island; Chaungzon Township, Moulmein District; Mon State – 28 August 2009 Mae Sot, Witnesses.
70 HURFOM (2009) “Residents were ordered to pay huge amounts of taxes on Mudon Township,” Mudon Township, Moulmein District, Mon State, Martus
Bulletin, 1 September; Interview 7, Female; Balu Island; Chaungzon Township, Moulmein District; Mon State – 28 August 2009 Mae Sot, Witnesses.
71 HURFOM (2009) “Residents were ordered to pay huge amounts of taxes on Mudon Township,” Mudon Township, Moulmein District, Mon State, Martus
Bulletin, 1 September.
72 Ibid.
73 AASYC (2009) “Fees for building houses on farms in San Sub-Township,” Kyaukpyu Township, Kyaukphu District, Arakan State, Martus Bulletin, 24 April:
PWO (2009) “Tax on home improvements in Pok Tin Ma Village,” Nankham Township, Muse District, Shan State, Martus Bulletin, 28 December.
74 SHAN (2008) “Junta collects taxes on home entertainment,” Maington Township, Maing Hsat District, Shan State, Shan Herald Agency for News, 21 February-
http://www.shanland.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1518%3Ajunta-collects-taxes-on-home-entertainment&Itemid=301 – accessed
report-2.indd 32 10-Jul-10 11:18:00
33
“We have to give them so much that our stomachs are empty of food”
dishes are also taxed, with the ocial rate of 15,000 Kyat per month.
75

Bullock carts, motorbikes and cars are also subject to temporary conscation for use
by the Tatmadaw and sometimes by the TPDC.
76
Households have to bear the costs
of any repairs and maintenance of the vehicles required when returned.
77
Sometimes
households are forced to purchase items at exorbitant prices, such as newspapers,
calendars and posters produced by the SPDC, as a method raising revenue for
dierent agencies associated with the state.
78
. More generally, extortion of money
and other assets from households and individuals by representatives of dierent
agencies of the state is common place throughout Burma.
79


Taxes and Fees for Household Services
An analysis of the provision of services and their relationship to taxation in Burma
has yet to be undertaken. ere is little information available about the relationship
between the costs of the provision of any services provided by the state and the
fees charged.
80
However, many households pay taxes without receiving any desired
services from the government. is occurs even when taxes are levied for the stated
purpose of providing services. For example, taxes are oen collected and allocated
to members of the re brigade, even when they are not providing the services that
might be expected.
81
In 2009 (between November and December), taxes collected
for the state purpose of re-ghter training proved instead to be for militia training.
82

17 February 2010;
75 Mizzima (2009) “Burmese junta’s mouthpiece says satellite TV bad for people,” Mizzima, 29 April - http://www.bnionline.net/media-alert/6188-burmese-juntas-
mouthpiece-says-satellite-tv-qbad-for-peopleq.html - accessed 2 March 2010.
76 Burma Issues (2008) “Over 300 cars were used to transport SPDC military food supplies in Mone Township,” Nyaunglibin District, Pegu District, Martus Bul-
letin, 16 December; HREIB (2006) “Za Ya Gyi Villagers forced to take the rice for TOC 3 using their bullock carts,” Toungoo Township, Toungoo District,
Pegu Division, Martus Bulletin, 3 March; PWO (2006) “SPDC forced and ordered cars to carry castor trees in Nankham Township,” Nankham Township, Muse
District, Shan State, Martus Bulletin, 14 July; HURFOM (2009) “Motorbikes and money taken from Yebyu township residents,” Yebyu Township, Tavoy Dis-
trict, Tenasserim Division, Martus Bulletin, 1 January; KWAT (2009) “Extortion of money from thor la gyi driver in Muse,” Muse Township, Muse District Shan
State, Martus Bulletin, March; PWO (2008) “Conscation of motorbike,” Mongton Township, Kyaukme District, Martus Bulletin, 10 January; PYNG (2007)
“Numbers of lorry forced to carry military supplies,” Mongton Township, Kyaukme District, Shan State, Martus Bulletin, 22 May; PYNG (2008) “Local residents
slave for Shweli Hydropower construction,” Mongton Township, Kyaukme District, Shan State, Martus Bulletin, 15 February; PYNG (2008) “Truck owners were
forced to carry military supplies,” Mongton Township, Kyaukme District, Shan State, Martus Bulletin, 1 June; PYNG (2008) “Local motor bikers forced to work
for government poll campaigning,” Namhsan Township, and Mongton Townships, Kyaukme District, Shan State, Martus Bulletin, 4 April. PYNG (2008) “Sol-
diers threaten and seize money,” Namhsan and Mongton Townships, Kyaukme District, Shan State, Martus Bulletin, 18 February; PYNG (2008) “Local residents
slave for Shweli Hydropower Construction,” Mongton Township, Kyaukme District, Shan State, Martus Bulletin, 15 February;
77 PYNG (2008) “Local residents slave for Shweli Hydropower Construction,” Mongton Township, Kyaukme District, Shan State, Martus Bulletin, 15 February.
78 KHRG (2007) “State repression and the creation of poverty in southern Karen State,” Dooplaya District, Karen Human Rights Group, 23 February - http://www.
khrg.org/khrg2007/khrg07f2.html - accessed 22 February 2010; KHRG (2009) “SPDC and DKBA order documents: August 2008 to June 2009,” Karen Human
Rights Group, August - http://www.khrg.org/khrg2009/khrg0904.pdf - accessed 23 March 2010.
79 Kaladan Press (2008) “Police and labourers clash, one dead, three injured in Sittwe,” Sittwe Township, Sittwe District, Arakan State, 14 July - http://www.
bnionline.net/news/kaladan/4479-police-and-laborers-clash-one-dead-three-injured-in-sittwe.html - accessed 4 March 2010; Kaladan Press (2010) “Arbitrary
tax and tolls imposed in Maungdaw, Arakan,” Maungdaw Township, Maungdaw District, Arakan State, Kaladan Press, 27 January - http://www.bnionline.net/
news/kaladan/7776-arbitrary-tax-and-toll-imposed-in-maungdaw-arakan.html - accessed 1 March; KHRG (2009) “SPDC and DKBA order documents: August
2008 to June 2009,” Karen Human Rights Group, August - http://www.khrg.org/khrg2009/khrg0904.pdf - accessed 23 March 2010; Tin Soe (2010) “Army
engineering unit operate like gangsters in Northern Arakan,” Maungdaw Township, Maungdaw District, Arakan State, Kaladan Press, 12 January -http://www.
bnionline.net/news/kaladan/7658-army-engineering-unit-operate-like-gangsters-in-northern- arakan.html - accessed 1 March 2010. Burma Issues (2009) “SPDC
commander in Maung Sint abuse on villagers,” Taungoo Township, Taungoo District, Pegu Division, Martus Bulletin, 1 August; Burma Issues (2009) “SPDC
shot and forcibly took villagers’ supplies,” Htantabin Township, Toungoo District, Pegu Division, 16 January; Burma Issues (2009) “SPDC Soldiers Looted Vil-
lagers Properties,” Htantabin Township, Taungoo District, Pegu Division, Martus Bulletin, 15 October; HURFOM (2009) ‘LIB No. 556 uses KNU activity to
justify human rights violations in Palaw Township,” Palaw Township, Mergui District, Tenasserim Division, Martus Bulletin, 17 0ctober 2009; HURFOM (2009)
“DKBA soldiers beat and rob villagers in aton District,” aton District, Mon State, Martus Bulletin, 13 September; HURFOM (2009) “Burmese battalions
used physical and emotional intimidation to extort money from the local villages,” anbyuzayat Township, Moulmein District, Mon State, Martus Bulletin, 1
September; KHRG (2009) “Exploitation and recruitment under the DKBA in Pa’an District,” Pa’an District, Karen State, Karen Human Rights Group,” 29 June,
- www.khrg.org/khrg2009/khrg09f11.pdf - accessed 21 February 2010; KHRG (2009) “SPDC and DKBA order documents: August 2008 to June 2009,” Karen
Human Rights Group, August - http://www.khrg.org/khrg2009/khrg0904.pdf - accessed 23 March 2010.
80 Another new source of revenue for the central government appeared in 2009. e levying of income tax is associated with the issuing of identication papers allow-
ing people to work for one year in ailand. ose holding identication papers reported being taxed on their earnings in ailand, although the tax rate was not
reported - Lawi Weng (2009) “Burmese authorities issue ‘passports’ to migrants,” Irrawaddy, 16 June - www.irrawaddy.org/article.php?art_id=16020 – accessed
16 February 2010.
81 TSYO (2009) “Youth forced to attend re-ghter training by authorities,” Nankham Township, Muse District, Shan State, Martus Bulletin, 2 October.
82 IMNA (2010) “Fire-truck tax baes villagers,” Mudon Township, Moulmein District, Mon State, Burma News International, 10 February - http://www.
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Taxes can also be levied for the stated purpose of purchasing equipment, such as
re-engines, which never materialise.
83
In Myitkyina Township in Kachin State in
2008, taxes were increased for the stated purpose of covering the costs of garbage
collection. is occurred in a situation where the garbage services are concentrated
in the area of the Tatmadaw’s Northern Command Headquarters.
84

85
Improvements in services, when they actually do occur are nanced by up-front
connection fees levied on users. For example, in a satellite suburb in Rangoon
Township households had to pay large up-front fees to be connected to the water
network, with the fee reported to be based on the size of the land. Most of the
households in the quarter preferred the new service, being easier and cheaper on
a per-unit basis than the previous purchase of bottled water. is is the case even
though the new piped water supply service works only twice a day during the wet
season and in the dry season there is oen no water.
86
e size of the connections
fees meant that some households had to borrow from the local money lender,
incurring burdensome interest bearing debt.
87
In other areas fees for improvements
in services are levied aer the construction has been completed. For example, in
Sittwe Township in Arakan State during 2009, the TPDC replaced a major water
pipe that had been originally laid under British rule, and which improved the
quality of the water.
88
Households connecting to the pipe had to pay 3,000 Kyat for
the application form and 52,000 Kyat for the connection. ose households not
directly near the new pipe had to incur additional costs associated with the laying of
connecting pipes. However, households unable to pay for the connection are now
without piped water and have to collect water at crowed public outlets.
Another, example of the large fees being charged for connection to services is from
Myitkyina in Kachin State, which in April 2008 began to have 24 hour electricity,
supplied by a company controlled by the Kachin Independence Organisation. Even
though 24 hour electricity is available, unlike most places in Burma, the connection
fees can cost hundreds of thousands of Kyat.
89
Coupled with the large connection
fees is the Tatmadaw’s use of the threat of violence to force households to supply
them with services. is occurred in Myitkyina in September 2010 when the local
Tatmadaw command began to levy taxes to cover the costs of lighting the main road,
which leads to their Northern Command Headquarters.
90
Households were even
ordered to purchase the light bulbs for this strip of street lighting.
bnionline.net/news/imna/7871-re-truck-tax-baes-villagers.html - accessed 25 February 2010.
83 IMNA (2010) “Fire-truck tax baes villagers,” Mudon Township, Mon State, Burma News International, 10 February - http://www.bnionline.net/news/
imna/7871-re-truck-tax-baes-villagers.html - accessed 25 February 2010.
84 KNG (2008) “Junta collects municipal taxes but provides no service for civilians in Myitkyina,’ Myitkyina Township, Kachin State, Kachin News Group, 12
September - http://www.kachinnews.com/News/Junta-collects-municipal-taxes-but-provides-no-service-for-civilians-in-Myitkyina.html - accessed 23 February
2010; KNG (2008) “Living under duress in Kachin State,” Myitkyina Township, Myitkyina District, Kachin State, 30 September - http://www.kachinnews.com/
Commentary/Living-under-duress-in-Kachin-State.html - accessed 23 February 2010.
85 KNG (2008) “Living under duress in Kachin State,” Myitkyina Township, Myitkyina District, Kachin State, Kachin News Group, 30 September - http://www.
kachinnews.com/Commentary/Living-under-duress-in-Kachin-State.html - accessed 23 February 2010.
86 Mae Sot Taxation Training Interview 3 Female, 25 August 2009, Rangoon Township, Rangoon Division.
87 is supports other evidence that it is the connection fee, rather than the per-unit price of price water that prevents the poor from having access to safe water
supply services. e policy implication is that poor households be granted subsidizes that allows them to cover the connection fee. See for example M.Basini, J.
Isham and B. Reilly (2008) “e Determinants of Water Connection and Water Consumption: Empirical Evidence from a Cambodian Household Survey,’ World
Development, 36(5), 953-968.
88 Narinjara News (2009) “Sittwe residents suer from high taxes on water,” Sittwe Township, Sittwe District, Arakan State, Narinjara News, 14 December - http://
www.bnionline.net/news/narinjara/7554-sittwe-residents-suer-from-high-taxes-on-water.html - accessed 1 March 2010.
89 KNG (2009) “Junta amasses money while civilians suer,” Myitkyina Township, Myitkyina District, Kachin State, 23 March - http://www.bnionline.net/news/
kng/6028-junta-amasses-money-while-civilians-suer-.html - accessed 2 March 2010.
90 KNG (2008) “Junta orders civilians to pay electricity charges for roadside lighting,” Myitkyina Township, Kachin State, Kachin News Group, 30 September -
http://www.kachinnews.com/News/Junta-orders-civilians-to-pay-electricity-charges-for-roadside-lighting.html - accessed 23 February 2010.
report-2.indd 34 10-Jul-10 11:18:00
35
“We have to give them so much that our stomachs are empty of food”
Generally, corruption in the supply of services to households (and businesses)
has also increased.
91
For example, access to mobile phones is controlled by the
government in Burma, rather than the private sector. At the beginning of 2010,
the state owned Myanmar Post and Telecommunications began increasing the
availability of mobile phones in nine states and divisions - Kachin, Chin, Mon,
Arakan and Southern Shan States and Sagaing, Magwe, Pegu and Irrawaddy
Divisions.
92
e ocial price for the rental of the phone connection was reported as
500,000 Kyat per month. However, despite the already very high price, there were
reports from Mon State the rental price being charged was higher, at 700,000 Kyat
per month.
93

Fines
Fines, though they are not strictly taxes, are commonly imposed in order to raise
government revenue in many countries. e oences on which nes are levied should
be outlined in legislation and well known to the general public. In Burma, nes are
also a common method of raising revenue for dierent state agencies, though most
of the revenue is allocated to personal income. Additionally, even if the oenses are
outlined in legislation, their collection is unpredictable and carried out by dierent
agencies. Sometimes households/individuals are ned by the dierent agencies of the
state for non-compliance with various “oenses”, many of which are unpredictable.
94

Some of the nes are for political reasons, such as non-attendance at government
rallies and failure to report visitors to the local authorities.
95
e police appear to
be heavily involved in using the powers of the state to arbitrarily impose, sometimes
quite large, nes to exhort money. People can be ned for falling asleep when forced
to do sentry duty for the Tatmadaw.
96
e lack of the rule of law and systematic
corruption allow for widespread extortion by the police, who utilize the detention
power of the state. ere are reports from numerous locations in Mudon Township
Mon State, where arbitrary arrest is used to extract poll taxes, reportedly of 20,000
Kyat.
97
Sometimes the nes are enough to plunge households into destitution,
including the better-o households.
98

91 Kyaw Kha (2010) “USDA dabbles in telecommunications business,” Mon State, Mizzima News, 5 March - http://www.bnionline.net/news/mizzima/8043-usda-
dabbles-in-telecommunication-business.html - accessed 8 March 2010.
92 Kyaw Zin Htun (2010) “MPT rolls out 450MHz phone network,” Myanmar Times, 4 March.
93 Kyaw Kha (2010) “USDA dabbles in telecommunications business,” Mon State, Mizzima News, 5 March - http://www.bnionline.net/news/mizzima/8043-usda-
dabbles-in-telecommunication-business.html - accessed 8 March 2010; e very high monthly rental price may be another attempt by the central government
to increase its revenue. Previously, the license fee for a mobile phone was much lower at K150,000. e change in the service fees was also coupled with less
geographical coverage. e coverage of the earlier phones was national, whereas the coverage of the new phones is only within the state or division of issue.
94 KWAT (2007) “Fines for not working for the re brigade in Hkalen Block,” Pangsai Township, Shan State, Martus Bulletin; HURFOM (2009) “Army in Pegu
forces young men to join army and villagers have to work as unpaid labourers,” Kyauk-Kyi Township, Nayunglebin District, Pegu Division, 7 November; KWAT
(2008) “e villagers were forced to work in Myitkyina University,” Myitkyina Township, Kachin State, Martus Bulletin, 1 November; KWAT (2008) “Woman
forced to pay money to the police,” Putao Township, Putao District, Kachin State, Martus Bulletin, 10 September; PYNG (2008) “Truck owners were forced to
carry military supplies,” Mantong Township, Shan State, Martus Bulletin, 1 June; PYNG (2008) “Forced labour for the Shweli power lines,” Namtu and Nankham
Townships, Shan State, Martus Bulletin, 1 June; HURFOM (2007) “Police extort money from arrested young people in the Mon village,” Mudon Township,
Moulmein District, Martus Bulletin, 14 August.
95 HURFOM (2007) “Authorities nes people refusing to attend rally in Ye township,” Ye Township, Mon State, Martus Bulletin, 24 October, HURFOM (2007)
“Abuses occurring behind the rallies in Mudon Township,” Mudon Township, Moulmein District, Mon State, Martus Bulletin, 22 October; HURFOM (2007)
“Abuses occurring behind the rallies in Ye Township,” Mudon Township, Moulmein District, Mon State, Martus Bulletin, 21 October; HURFOM (2007) “Abuses
occurring behind the rallies in Mon State (1),” Ramanya, Moulmein, Mon State, Martus Bulletin, 1 October; PWO (2009) “Unfair ne on unreported census in
Zon Gang uarter,” Nankham Township, Muse District, Shan State.
96 HURFOM (2007) “Interview with forced labour victim from Khaw-Zar Sub Township,” Martus Bulletin, 10 April
97 HURFOM (2006) “Police and Navy extorted money from local villagers in Southern Burma,” Martus Bulletin, March.
98 HURFOM (2009) “Interview: Forced to pay various titles of fees including gas pipeline, village security and government run summer paddy project,” Mudon
Township, Moulmein District, Mon State, Martus Bulletin, 1 October.
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36
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Taxation for Infrastructure
Who Levies the Taxes and Forced Labour to Build Infrastructure?
e resources for infrastructure building and maintenance again mostly involve
agencies extracting resources from households, as with other taxes levied on
households this is decentralized and operates outside of any legal framework. e
SPDC still issues decrees to the lower echelons of their administrative structure
regarding the construction and maintenance of roads, bridges schools and
government buildings. Some infrastructure building is determined by the locally
based commanders in the Tatmadaw and TDPC.
99
Ceasere groups likewise levy
taxes and extract resources for the construction and maintenance of infrastructure.
100

Sometimes resources are extracted to nance infrastructure that benets groups
other than those doing the nancing.
101
Sometimes the levying of taxes for the
stated purpose of funding infrastructure is simply a cover
102
and funds received by
the TPDC and Tatmadaw to nance infrastructure construction are diverted to
personal income and forced labour is used instead.
103
ose providing the resources
are excluded from participating in any process that might elicit their preferences
regarding the building and maintenance of infrastructure.
What is Used to Fund Infrastructure Building?
Taxes on Households to Build Infrastructure: In some areas taxation for the
purpose of infrastructure building is on-going, with the size of the taxes being the
major problem. ough, again many of the (cash) taxes levied for the construction
of infrastructure are unpredictable in terms of the timing and the amount. Typically
households are given little time, usually no more than two weeks to pay these taxes.
104

Sometimes each household is levied a lump-sum tax, but in other circumstances
rough estimates of household income are used to determine the size of the tax.
105

Sometimes the taxing agency will levy the tax on the village, with village leaders
then determining the amounts to be paid by each household.
106
Sometimes taxes are
99 HURFOM (2006) “Tax for Development Projects,” anbyuzayat and Ye Townships, Moulmein District, Mon State, Martus Bulletin, 25 May; HURFOM
(2006) “Forced Labour Still Continued in Mon State,” Ye Township, Moulmein District, Mon State, Martus Bulletin, 1 March; HURFOM (2006) “Forced
labour still continues in Mon State #2,” Mudon and anbyuzayat Townships, Moulmein District, Mon State, Martus Bulletin, 4 April.
100 Burma Issues (2007) “Locals forced to construct new army camp,” Mawchi Township, Karenni State, Martus Bulletin, 11 June; Burma Issues (2008) “DKBA
forced villagers to build military camp,” Kawkareik Township, Dooplaya District, Karen State, Martus Bulletin, 12 November; Burma Issues (2008) “Conscation
of villagers’ property,” Papun Township, Pa’an District, Karen State, 19 September.
101 HURFOM (2009) “Villagers forced to repair road in Tenasserim Division,” Tavoy Township, Tavoy District, Tenasserim Division, 29 August. http://rehmonnya.
org/archives/1003 - accessed 10 September 2009; KHRG (2009) “Exploitative abuse and villager responses in aton District,” aton District, Karen Human
Rights Group, 25 November, p.8 - http://www.khrg.org/khrg2009/khrg09f20.pdf - accessed 23 March 2010.
102 HURFOM (2009) “Corruption and arbitrary taxation on road repairs in Hangan,” Ye Township, Moulmein District, Mon State, e Mon Forum, 15 July
– http://rehmonnya.org/archives/979#more-979 – accessed 26 February 2010; KHRG (2009) “Exploitative abuse and villager responses in aton District,”
aton District, Karen Human Rights Group, 25 November, p.9 - http://www.khrg.org/khrg2009/khrg09f20.pdf - accessed 23 March 2010.
103 PYNG (2003) “SPDC forced villagers to cut wood without pay,” Namtu Township, Kyaukme District, Shan State, Martus Bulletin, 8 February. Mizzima News
(2010) “Six Falam villager build road at own expense,” Falam Township, Falam District, Chin State, 4 March - http://www.bnionline.net/news/mizzima/8032-
six-falam-villages-build-roads-at-own-expense.html - accessed 23 March 2010.
104 HURFOM (2006) “Tax for Development Projects,” anbyuzayat and Ye Townships, Moulmein District, Mon State, Martus Bulletin, 25 May.
105 Ibid.
106 KHRG (2007) “State repression and the creation of poverty in southern Karen State,” Kawkareik District, Karen State, 23 February - http://www.khrg.org/
khrg2007/khrg07f2.html - accessed 22 February 2010; KHRG (2009) “Exploitation and recruitment under the DKBA in Pa’an District,” Pa’an District, Karen
State, Karen Human Rights Group,” 29 June, p.3 - www.khrg.org/khrg2009/khrg09f11.pdf - accessed 21 February 2010; KHRG (2009) “Exploitative abuse and
villager responses in aton District,” aton District, Karen Human Rights Group, 25 November, p.9 - http://www.khrg.org/khrg2009/khrg09f20.pdf - ac-
report-2.indd 36 10-Jul-10 11:18:00
37
“We have to give them so much that our stomachs are empty of food”
levied to cover the cost of a specic component of an infrastructure project.
107
As
with other cash taxes levied on households, those levied for infrastructure also vary
considerably on the basis of geography. For example, in 2006 some households in Ye
Township were taxed a lump-sum of 2,000 Kyat to fund local road construction.
108

ose households closer to the road were taxed a larger amount of 3,000 Kyat per
household.
109
In 2006 in anbyuzayat Township, also in Mon State, the tax levied
on households for road repairs was between 1,500 and 5,000 Kyat, this time varying
on the basis of a rough estimate of household income.
110
Whereas, in 2007, in Ye
Township, the Tatmadaw taxed each of the 600 households between 2,000 and 8,000
Kyat.
111

Forced Labour: is purpose here is not to document in detail the use of forced
labour, but to assess the impacts of this method of nancing the construction
and maintenance of infrastructure. Forced labour, is a signicant and widespread
method used by Burma’s state to extract resources from the private sector. People are
forced to supply labour without payment to construct buildings for military bases,
TPDCs, VPDCs and schools, roads and bridges and other infrastructure.
112
To
ignore forced labour in this regard would provide an inaccurate representation of the
state’s methods of extracting resources in order to fund its programs. Forced labour
is equivalent to a 100% “tax” on an individual’s wage for the period of the unpaid
labour, with all its consequent abuses and income loss.
113
Another method of funding
infrastructure building associated with forced labour is the levying of nes for failure
to provide the demanded labour. Again the nes vary on the basis of geography. For
example, in 2003 in Maington Township in Shan State, the ne varied between 230
and 330 Kyat for each day that labour wasn’t supplied;
114
whereas in Maing Hsat
Township in the same state in the same year, households were ned a much higher
rate each day at around 1,200 Kyat. In 2004 households in Murngpan Township in
Shan State were ned 1,000 Kyat per day. In 2006 in Mudon Township, households
cessed 23 March 2010.
107 HURFOM (2006) “SPDC continues forced labour,” Ye Township, Moulmein District, Mon State and Yebyu Township, Tavoy District, Tenasserim Division,
Martus Bulletin, 5 May.
108 HURFOM (2006) “Porter and forced labour fees by SPDC’s battalions,” Ye Township, Moulmein District, Mon State & Yebyu Township, Tavoy District, Tenas-
serim Divisions, Martus Bulletin, 3 May.
109 Ibid.
110 HURFOM (2006) “Tax for Development Projects,” anbyuzayat and Ye Townships, Moulmein District, Mon State, Martus Bulletin, 25 May
111 HURFOM (2007) “Continued Forced Labour in Mon State,” Khaw-Zar Sub-Township, Ye Township, Ye District, Mon State, Martus Bulletin, 1 January.
112 Burma Issues (2008) “SPDC Battalion Commander Aung Tin and Soe Myit gave orders to villagers,” Nyaunglebin Township, Pegu District, Pegu Division,
Martus Bulletin, 13 March; Burma Issues (2008) “Battalion Commanders forced villagers,” Nyaunglebin Township, Pegu District, Pegu Division, Martus Bulletin,
2 March; Burma Issues (2008) “SPDC forced villagers to do road construction for the military,” Nyaunglebin Township, Pegu District, Pegu Division, Martus
Bulletin, 25 February; Burma Issues (2008) “Forced labour and conscation and destruction of property,” Nyaunglebin Township, Pegu District, Pegu Division,
Martus Bulletin, 9 February; Burma Issues (2009) “Villagers force labour by SPDC at Play Has Lo Village,” Htantabin Township, Taungoo District, Karen State,
Martus Bulletin, 19 March; HREIB (2008) “Forced labour,” Myeik Township, Tenasserim Division, Martus Bulletin, 29 June; HURFOM (2006) “Forced Labour
Still Continued in Mon State,” Ye Township, Moulmein District, Mon State, Martus Bulletin, 1 March; HURFOM (2006) “Forced labour still continues in Mon
State #2,” Mudon and anbyuzayat Townships, Moulmein District, Mon State, Martus Bulletin, 4 April.; HURFOM (2006) “Tax for Development Projects,”
anbyuzayat and Ye Townships, Moulmein District, Mon State, Martus Bulletin, 25 May; HURFOM (2007) “Villagers forced to clear bushes and tree roots,”
Khaw-Zar Sub-Township, Ye Township, Moulmein District, Mon State, Martus Bulletin, 9 January; KSWDC (2007) “80 villagers from 3 villages in Karenni State
forced labour on army camp,” Loikaw Township, Loikaw District, Karenni State, 27 July; PYNG (2008) “Villagers forced to do repairs on the hydropower dam
project,” Nankham Township, Muse District, Shan State, Martus Bulletin, 21 April; Tin Soe (2010) “Army engineering unit operate like gangsters in Northern
Arakan,” Maungdaw Township, Maungdaw District, Arakan State, Kaladan Press, 12 January - http://www.bnionline.net/news/kaladan/7658-army-engineering-
unit-operate-like-gangsters-in-northern-arakan.html - accessed 1 March 2010.
113 Infrastructure building in some areas is also accompanied by restrictions on people’s freedom of movement. is though not a tax has a negative impact on aggre-
gate output. For example in 2006 in Ye Township from between March till the end of May, restrictions on people’s movement meant that people in some villages
could not work on their plantations and farms. People from these villages were also instructed that would be required to carry permission letters from their village
headmen whenever they went to their farms or fruit plantations. ose without the requisite letters could be accused of being rebel members or supporters.
114 LWO (2003) “All villages in Maingtong Township forced to provide unpaid labour by Colonel Maung Pu from LIB519,” Maington Township, Maing Hsat
District, Shan State, Martus Bulletin, 10 April.
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38
Network for Human Rights Documentation – Burma
were ned 500 Kyat for the day;
115
whereas in Ye Township in the same state in the
same year the ne levied on households that did not provide forced labour were
ned around 1,600 Kyat.
116
Two years later in 2008, in Ye Township the ne for
not supplying unpaid labour to the state had doubled to 2,500 Kyat per day.
117
In at
least some areas of Yebyu Township, Tenasserim Division in 2008, nes were levied
at 3,500 Kyat per day.
118
Similarly, in 2009 in Kaleinaung Sub-Township in Tavoy
Township in Tenasserim Division the ne for providing labour was 3,500 Kyat per
day.
119
e levying of nes associated with forced labour in terms of when they are
levied and the amount levied increases the costs of these taxes, as households have
limited opportunity to prepare for the payment. Fines for not supplying forced
labour can also be levied in-kind, with households forced to provide inputs required
to build infrastructure, such as wood, rocks, sand and cement.
120

Forced to Provide Materials: Another method of funding infrastructure
construction and maintenance is the forced acquisition of non-labour inputs from
households.
121
In some situations individuals are ordered by the local authorities to
provide the material required for construction.
122
In other cases the responsibility
for providing the materials required for construction are levied on the village, rather
on specic individuals.
123
is means that the village authorities/leaders bear the
costs for organising the supply of the materials. For example, as part of a program
of public works two villages in Ye Township were engaged in the upgrading of two
wooden bridges in their local area.
124
For this purpose one village had to provide 20
bags of cement.
125
e other village had to provide the trees, which were located on
private land.
Impact of Infrastructure Taxation
ere are a number of serious problems for households, apart from the human rights
abuses associated with forced labour, arising from the present system of nancing
some of Burma’s infrastructure building. Firstly, the system is not exible as the
demands on households for infrastructure building do not consider the uctuations
115 HURFOM (2006) “Villagers forced to remove bushes from along the motor road,” Mudon Township, Moulmein District, Mon State, Martus Bulletin, 31 July.
116 HURFOM (2006) “SPDC continues forced labour,” Ye Township, Moulmein District, Mon State and Yebyu Township, Tavoy District, Tenasserim Division,
Martus Bulletin, 5 April.
117 HURFOM (2008) “Interview with forced labour victims from Ye Township,” Ye Township, Moulmein District, Mon State, Martus Bulletin, 1 January.
118 HURFOM (2009) “Motorbikes and money taken from Yebyu township residents,” Yebyu Township, Tavoy District, Tenasserim Division, Martus Bulletin, 1
January.
119 HURFOM (2009) “Villagers forced to repair road in Tenasserim Division,” Tavoy Township, Tavoy District, Tenasserim Division, 29 August. http://rehmonnya.
org/archives/1003 - accessed 10 September 2009
120 HURFOM (2007) “Ongoing forced labour usage on SPDC’s development projects in Southern Mon State,” Ye Township, Moulmein District, Mon State, Martus
Bulletin, 17 January.
121 HURFOM (2007) “Continued Forced Labour in Mon State,” Khaw-Zar Sub-township, Ye Township, Moulmein District, Mon State, Martus Bulletin, 1 January;
HURFOM (2007) “Ongoing forced labour usage of SPDC’s development projects in Southern Mon State,” Ye Township, Moulmein District, Mon State, Martus
Bulletin, 17 January; KHRG (2009) “Exploitative abuse and villager responses in aton District,” aton District, Karen Human Rights Group, 25 November,
p.7-8 - http://www.khrg.org/khrg2009/khrg09f20.pdf - accessed 23 March 2010.
122 HURFOM (2006) “Tax for Development Projects,” anbyuzayat and Ye Townships, Moulmein District, Mon State, Martus Bulletin, 25 May
123 HURFOM (2006) “SPDC continues forced labour,” Ye Township, Moulmein District, Mon State and Yebyu Township, Tavoy District, Tenasserim Division,
Martus Bulletin, 5 April.
124 HURFOM (2007) “Ongoing forced labour usage on SPDC’s development projects in Southern Mon State,” Ye Township, Moulmein District, Mon State, Martus
Bulletin, 17 January.
125 HURFOM (2007) “Continued Forced Labour in Mon State,” Khaw-Zar Sub-Township, Ye Township, Moulmein District, Mon State, Martus Bulletin, 1 January;
HURFOM (2007) “Ongoing forced labour usage on SPDC’s development projects in Southern Mon State,” Ye Township, Moulmein District, Mon State, Martus
Bulletin, 17 January.
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39
“We have to give them so much that our stomachs are empty of food”
in the economy and the agricultural cycle. e failure to consider the agricultural
cycle also has negative eciency implications arising from decreases in agricultural
output and ultimately lowering the income of households in the private sector.
126

For example, 10 days at the end of May 2007 around 600 people were forced by
the Tatmadaw in Khaw-Zar Sub-Township (for around ten days) to engage in road
repairs and clean up public areas to welcome a Tatmadaw ocial.
127
e forced
labour prevented people from attending to their fruit gardens, during the time of
year, when durian ripens.
128
e timing also had implications for farmers growing
other crops, who needed to prepare the land before the Monsoon rains began.
Another cost is the damage to any equipment that people have to provide to perform
unpaid labour.
129
Additional costs from forced labour can include people being
injured and beaten incurring the costs of medical care and/or the long term costs of
disability.
130
Forced labour on households without savings can have an additional
negative impact, when they are forced to borrow money (or sell assets) to cover the
lost income, damage associated with using their personal equipment, and the costs
of health care and disability.
131
ese also lower the overall level of private sector
income, and the distribution of resources between households in the private sector.
e tax system with regard to levying of resources for the building of infrastructure is
not fair in its relative treatment of dierent individuals and households. e limited
provisions to ascertain the capacity of households to incur the resource imposition
for infrastructure building suggests that poorer households are being taxed for
infrastructure building more than richer households. Again, this indicates that
Burma’s system of taxation is regressive.
ere is considerable anecdotal evidence that much of the infrastructure built by
forced labour is of poor quality.
132
e poor quality of the infrastructure is directly
associated with the method of nancing construction. ere are limited incentives
for labour to perform their job properly when they are uncompensated. ere are
also limited incentives for soldiers overseeing labour to ensure that work is done
properly. e incentive is get the construction completed in line with orders. ere
are also incentives for households and military to supply inferior inputs to the
construction process, as neither obtain returns from supplying higher cost inputs.
126 HURFOM (2008) “Interview with forced labour victims from Ye Township,” Ye Township, Moulmein District, Mon State, Martus Bulletin, 1 January; TSYO
(2009) “Youth forced to attend re-ghter training by authorities,” Nankham Township, Muse District, Shan State, Martus Bulletin, 2 October.
127 HURFOM (2007) “Villagers forced to work for a week to welcome Lt. Gen Maung Bo,” Southern Ye Township, Moulmein District, Mon State, Martus Town-
ship, 23 May.
128 Ibid.
129 TSYO (2009) “Forced labour to rebuild road,” Namhsan Township, Kyaukme District, Shan State, Martus Bulletin, 12 October; TSYO (2009) “Land conscated
by SPDC soldiers,” Namhsan Township, Kyaukme District, Shan State, Martus Bulletin, 10 October.
130 HURFOM (2008) “Interview with forced labour victims from Ye Township,” Ye Township, Moulmein District, Mon State, Martus Bulletin, 1 January.
131 HURFOM (2009) “Villagers forced to repair road in Tenasserim Division,” Tavoy Township, Tavoy District Tenasserim Division, 29 August. http://rehmonnya.
org/archives/1003 - accessed 10 September 2009; HURFOM (2006) “SPDC continues forced labour,” Ye Township, Moulmein District, Mon State and Yebyu
Township, Tavoy District, Tenasserim Division, Martus Bulletin, 5 April.
132 HURFOM (2009) “Villagers forced to repair road in Tenasserim Division,” Tavoy Township, Tavoy District, Tenasserim Division, 29 August. http://rehmonnya.
org/archives/1003 - accessed 10 September 2009
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Network for Human Rights Documentation – Burma
Taxation of Small Businesses
Burma has legislation that is supposed to govern the taxation of business income
and prot (Income Tax Law 1974 and Prot Tax Law 1976). e ocial tax rate
on businesses formed under the Myanmar Company Law Act is 30%, although
corruption in state agencies means this rate is much higher in practice.
133
Taxation
on businesses incorporated under the Corporate Law Act are outside the parameters
of this report, as these are the larger companies, some
with connections to the regime. e proportion of
total recorded, on-budget taxes from the prots of these
businesses have fallen from 15.5% to around 10% in
the last ve years.
134
Despite the fall in prot taxes as a
percentage of total taxes, these are still extremely large
as a proportion of total recorded taxes, relative to other
poor countries. Typically in poor countries, taxes on
corporate prots, (both local and foreign companies),
amount to less than 3% of the country’s tax revenue, (in
rich countries it is around 6%). e taxation of small
business is ocially governed by the Prot Tax Law
(1976) for which is there is no public data.
135
As with
households, there is evidence that the number of taxes
and the absolute amount of taxes levied on businesses
have been increasing, since 2009, due to orders from the
central government.
136
Who Levies the Taxes?
Taxes on small privately owned businesses, as with households, are levied by a
range of state agencies including the TPDC/VPDC, the Tatmadaw, police and
ceasere groups.
137
For example, in 2009 in Kyauktaw Township in Arakan State,
rice mill owners paid a total of 60,000 Kyat in taxes to dierent state agencies.
138

is included an annual registration fee of 28,000 Kyat; 2,000 Kyat for the stated
purpose of covering the administration expenses of the TPDC; 4,000 Kyat to the
Ministry of Labour and 16,000 Kyat to the Internal Revenue Department in the
133 Business Environment Outlook (2008) Business Environment in Focus: Myanmar, October, p.2.
134 http://www.csostat.gov.mm – accessed 17 September 2009.
135 Ministry of Finance and Revenue, “Facts you need to know about taxation,” Internal Revenue Department, Mon State – Translated from Burmese.
136 Auctions of licenses are a common method for governments to earn revenue, but in Burma they are also a common method of limiting competition. is forces
up the price of the produce and has detrimental impacts on the income of those who can no longer operate. ere are numerous examples of licenses being issued
for this purpose. For example, in Bogale Township, aer Cyclone Nargis shing licenses were auctioned causing locals to lose their livelihoods. Salai Pi Pi (2009)
“Fishing license aects lives of Nargis victims,” Bogale Township , Hpyarpon District, Irrawaddy Division, Mizzima News, 1 May - http://www.bnionline.net/
news/mizzima/6197-shing-license-aects-lives-of-nargis-victims.html - accessed 2 March 2010. Another area, where licensing not only raises revenue, but has
had serious detrimental impacts in creating shortages are the limited number of licenses issued for the importation of spare parts for vehicles. May Kyaw (2009)
“New regulation introduced for importing car parts,” Mizzima News, 15 July - http://www.bnionline.net/news/mizzima/6657-new-regulation-introduced-for-
importing-car-parts.html - accessed 2 March 2010. Licenses and controls over the importation of cars have meant that car prices in Burma are seriously inated.
137 HURFOM (2009) “DKBA conducts arbitrary taxation in Beelin Township, Beelin Township, aton District, Mon State, Martus Bulletin, 12 August;
Khonumthung News (2010) “Small rice mill owner pays Kyat 60,000 as tax,” Kyauktaw Township, Sittwe District, Arakan State, Khonumthung News, 8 January
- http://www.bnionline.net/news/khonumthung/7646-small-rice-mill-owner-pays-kyat-60000-as-tax.html - accessed 1 March.
138 Khonumthung News (2010) “Small rice mill owner pays Kyat 60,000 as tax,” Kyauktaw Township, Sittwe District, Arakan State, Khonumthung News, 8 January
- http://www.bnionline.net/news/khonumthung/7646-small-rice-mill-owner-pays-kyat-60000-as-tax.html - accessed 1 March.
report-2.indd 40 10-Jul-10 11:18:01
41
“We have to give them so much that our stomachs are empty of food”
Ministry of Finance In Buthidaung, another township in Arakan State rice millers
had similar problems, with multiple agencies collecting taxes.
139
For example during
the 2008/09 scal year the local representatives of four government departments
collected a total of 57,000 Kyat. e Internal Revenue Department collected
15,000 Kyat, the TPDC
administration oce
collected 25,000 Kyat, and
the Industry Ministry No.2
collected 12,000 Kyat and
the Agricultural Department
5,000 Kyat. During the
2009/10 scal year total
taxes on each rice mill had
increased by more than
300% to 147,000 Kyat.
e Internal Revenue
Department increased it
taxes by 25,000 Kyat, the
TPDC administration oce
by 35,000 Kyat, and the
Agricultural Department increasing by 15,000 Kyat. e Industry Ministry No.2
did not increase its taxes, but another agency, the TPDC municipal ocial began
by levying a lump-sum tax on all rice mills of 15,000 Kyat.
140
Another example, of
multiple taxation, this time from Mon State are taxes that are levied on businesses
that sell individual phone calls. Payments included a monthly fee of 2,000 Kyat to
the local army battalion, and a monthly payment of 40,000 Kyat to the local military
intelligence forces.
141

ere is some evidence of small scale tax farming in the levying of taxes on small
business, where private agents are given the right to collect taxes. e private agency
then has to pay the authorities a designated amount of tax, with any monies collected
above this amount kept as private income.
142
is practice, as the private agents are
prot maximisers, results in higher levels of taxes on businesses.
is uncoordinated method of levying taxes, typically increases the total amount
of taxation levied on the business, as well as increasing other costs. is includes
problems arising from the timing and the predictability of the amount of taxes
to be paid.
143
ere is no consistent pattern to the timing, and the amount of the
taxes levied on businesses nor is their consistency regarding the agencies collecting
139 Narinjara News (2010) “Rice mill owners suer due to increased taxes,” Buthidaung Township, Maungdaw District, Arakan State, Narinjara News, 6 January -
http://www.bnionline.net/news/narinjara/7613-rice-mill-owners-suer-due-to-increased-taxesjanuary-5.html - accessed 1 March 2010.
140 Ibid.
141 HFROM (2009) “Phone tapping by local authorities leads to economic hardship for phone owners,” Ye Township, Ye District, Mon State, Martus Bulletin, 1
January.
142 ASSYC (2010) “Tax for shermen in Rambee City,” Rambee Township, Arakan State, Martus Bulletin, 10 January; PWO (2009) “Inated tax on alcohol shops
in Nam Tsit village and Man Sat village,” Nankham Township, Muse District, Shan State, Martus Bulletin, 31 October.
143 AASYC (2009) “Sittwe Taxis burdened with new number cards for 61,000 kyat,” Sittwe Township, Sittwe District, Arakan State, Martus Bulletin, 23 July; Burma
Issues (2009) “SPDC has no tax law,” Beelin Township, aton District, Mon State, Martus Bulletin, Martus Bulletin, 22 August; PWO (2009) “Additional tax
on shop in Aong Chan Tar uarter,” Nankham Township, Muse District, Shan State, Martus Bulletin, 15 October.
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the taxation. For example, restaurants in Mudon Township in 2009 were levied
additional taxes of between 5,000 and 15,000 Kyat each month.
144
In 2009 in Beelin
Township, also in Mon State, both the Tatmadaw and the DKBA levied taxes on
local businesses, notably rice and lumber mills.
145
One of the taxes levied on the rice
and lumber mills was 10,000 Kyat each month for the ‘operation of the business’,
which was at least predictable. Other taxes imposed on the mills are not predicable,
with the DKBA having levied taxes of around 15,000 for the previous few months,
when their troops need money for food. Total taxes levied on these businesses during
this period amounted to between 30,000 and 40,000 Kyat each month.
146
e
uncertainty created by businesses not being informed of the size and timing of taxes
increases the diculties of making business decisions. is can force businesses to
borrow money to pay taxes.
Even when taxes are predicable in terms of when they are levied, the amounts taxed
can vary for reasons not associated with the business.
147
High tax rates can also lower
income decreasing the number of protable businesses in operation.
What is Taxed?
Cash Taxes on Businesses: Licenses to operate businesses can be a legitimate
method of raising revenue, regulating business behaviour and a method of nancing
services. However, in Burma’s system where few services are provided by the state,
business licenses are oen nothing more than a method of extracting money from the
private sector.
148
In some areas, and for particular businesses, the Tatmadaw, and not
Burma’s bureaucracy, controls the issuing of licenses in return for fees. Registration
fees on businesses are oen levied via negotiation with the local authorities and many
are “unocial”. Furthermore, the purchase of licenses and payment of registration
fees does not necessarily protect business from abuses or unocial taxation.
149
ere is typically an annual registration fee for the business levied by the local
TPDC/VPDC, though details in the public domain are limited. Daily license fees
can sometimes be levied on businesses, typically market stalls.
150
People involved
in trade also have to obtain a permit from the authorities. Some licenses for, say,
the production of alcohol are auctioned by the TPDC.
151
ere are some signs of
increased taxation on business ordered by the central government occurring via the
issuing of notications sent to certain businesses to apply for licenses to operate.
144 HURFOM (2009) “TPDC arbitrary tax demands in Mudon Township balloon,” Mudon Township, Moulmein District, Mon State, 9 September - http://
rehmonnya.org/archives/1003 - accessed 10 September 2009
145 HURFOM (2009) “DKBA conducts arbitrary taxation in Bilin Township,” Beelin Township, aton District, Mon State, 28 August - http://rehmonnya.org/
archives/1003 - accessed 7 September 2009
146 Ibid.
147 Ibid.
148 Narinjara News (2009) “Saka Kha 15 amasses huge funds,” Buthidaung Township, Maungdaw District, Arakan State, Narinjara News, 5 August - http://www.
bnionline.net/news/narinjara/6803-saka-kha-15-amasses-huge-funds.html - accessed 2 March 2010.
149 Burma Issues (2009) “Corn traders ned,” Kawkareik Township, Dooplaya District, Karen State, Martus Bulletin, 15 October.
150 KWAT (2009) “Taxes on stalls in Maw Mau uarter,” Hpakant Township, Kachin State, Martus Bulletin, 1 December; KWAT (2009) “Tax on stalls in Maw
Mau Hill,” Hpakant Township, Kachin State, Martus Bulletin, 9 December; KWAT (2009) “Stall tax on Jawng Kawng block,” Hpakant Township, Kachin State,
Martus Bulletin, 8 December; KWAT (2010) “Stall tax in Hpakant,” Hpakant Township, Kachin State, Martus Bulletin, 5 January; KWAT (2010) “Stall tax in
Maw Mau uarter,” Hpakant Township, Kachin State, Martus Bulletin, 12 January.
151 Khonumthung News (2009) “Alcohol consumption drops in antlang Township,” antllang Township, Falam District, Chin State, 9 December - http://www.
bnionline.net/news/khonumthung/7534-alcohol-consumption-drops-in-thantlang-township.html - accessed 1 March 2010.
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“We have to give them so much that our stomachs are empty of food”
For example in 2009 private hospitals, clinics and other health services were issued
notices that they had to apply for a government issued license and pay taxes to the
Health Ministry.
152
e license fee for clinics is based on the number of doctors
and for hospitals it is based on the number of beds. ere were also reports that
businesses in Kachin State had to pay registration fees of 8,000 Kyat, for the rst time
in 2009.
153

Many of the taxes levied on business (as with households) are levied on a lump-
sum basis, rather than a percentage of revenue or prot.
154
For example, in 2009 in
Kyauktaw Township in Arakan State, all rice mill owners were taxed a lump-sum
of 60,000 Kyat, regardless of prot or revenue.
155
Lump sum taxes penalise smaller
business owners, as they pay a higher eective tax rate than businesses with greater
revenue. is penalising of smaller businesses acts to lower competition, forcing
smaller businesses to leave the market. Some of the taxes levied are akin to extortion
with little concern for the viability of the business.
156
For example, in June 2007
rice mill owners in Mudon Township in Mon State, of which there are around 100,
were each ordered to pay the TPDC 50,000 Kyat regardless of income. Arrest was
the threatened punishment for non-payment.
157
Smaller mill owners were reported
to be unable to aord the payment. e available information does not allow for
systematic assessments of tax rates on businesses. However, tax can sometimes
be exceptionally high. For example, the market price of rice milling equipment
purchased by a rice mill in Kyauktaw Township in Arakan State was reported
as 12,000 Kyat, though the annual tax burden was 60,000 Kyat, ve times the
businesses capital investment.
158
Sometimes taxes are levied on business based on rough assessments income.
159
One
example, where a proxy for income was used to levy taxes, comes from aton
District in Karen State in 2009 where the DKBA levied taxes on rice mill owners
based on the size of the rice mill. e taxes levied were between 7,000 and 10,000
Kyat.
160
However, the taxes were levied at a time of year where income had yet to
been earned from the sale of rice, illustrating the limited exibility of Burma’s system
of taxation. Another problem (as with taxes levied on households) is that even
when income is considered in determining the size of taxes levied arises from the
lack of coordination in the taxation system.
161
For example, in 2009, the Customs
152 Irrawaddy (2009) “Burma licenses private hospitals, clinics,” Irrawaddy, 8 October - http://www.irrawaddy.org/article.php?art_id=16954 – accessed 16 February
2010.
153 KNG (2009) “Junta rakes in 1,000 million kyat from auction of seized cars,” Myitkyina Township, Kachin News Group, 23 June - http://www.kachinnews.com/
News/Junta-rakes-in-1000-million-Kyat-from-auction-of-seized-cars.html - accessed 23 February 2010.
154 Khonumthung News (2010) “Small rice mill owner pays Kyat 60,000 as tax,” Kyauktaw Township, Sittwe District, Arakan State, Khonumthung News, 8 January
- http://www.bnionline.net/news/khonumthung/7646-small-rice-mill-owner-pays-kyat-60000-as-tax.html - accessed 1 March.
155 Khonumthung News (2010) “Small rice mill owner pays Kyat 60,000 as tax,” Kyauktaw Township, Sittwe District, Arakan State, Khonumthung News, 8 January
- http://www.bnionline.net/news/khonumthung/7646-small-rice-mill-owner-pays-kyat-60000-as-tax.html - accessed 1 March.
156 KWAT (2009) “Tax on Karaoke shop in Sum Pra Bum Township,” Putao Township, Kachin State, Martus Bulletin; Burma Issues (2009) “SPDC has no tax law,”
Beelin Township, aton District, Mon State, Martus Bulletin, Martus Bulletin, 22 August; PYNG (2006) “Suburban retailers punished for no license,” Namhsan
Township, Shan State, 27 December.
157 HURFOM (2007) “Township authorities ordered over 100 rice mill owners to pay for army rations,” Mudon Township, Moulmein District, Mon State, Martus
Bulletin, 9-15 June 2007.
158 Khonumthung News (2010) “Small rice mill owner pays Kyat 60,000 as tax,” Kyauktaw Township, Sittwe District, Arakan State, Khonumthung News, 8 January
- http://www.bnionline.net/news/khonumthung/7646-small-rice-mill-owner-pays-kyat-60000-as-tax.html - accessed 1 March.
159 HURFOM (2009) “ree Pagoda Pass Township businesses falter under second annual tax,” ree Pagoda Pass Township (Phayathonezu), Karen State, Martus
Bulletin, 1 October.
160 KHRG (2009) “Exploitative abuse and villager responses in aton District,” aton District, Karen Human Rights Group, 25 November - http://www.khrg.
org/khrg2009/khrg09f20.pdf - accessed 23 March 2010. A comparison of the income tax rate is impossible as the requisite information is not available.
161 HURFOM (2009) “ree Pagoda Pass Township businesses falter under second annual tax,” ree Pagoda Pass Township (Phayathonezu) Karen State, Martus
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Department began to levy a 15% tax on business income in ree Pagoda Township
in Karen State.
162
However, the new tax came on top of taxes levied by the TPDC.
163

Also, even when taxes are levied on income the tax rate varies across Burma. For
example, in another Hpakant Township in Kachin State, the tax rate on business
income varied between 20 and 25%.
164

Taxes on Businesses for Service Provision: As with houses, businesses are taxed
for the provision of services, provided by the state. However (as with households),
businesses do not always receive the services for which they are paying. For example,
businesses in the town of Myitkyina in Kachin State were taxed between 66 and
800 Kyat per day for the stated purpose of having their garbage collected, though
the service was rarely provided.
165
Stall owners at the markets in Hpakant Township
in Kachin State, were also taxed for the purpose of providing cleaning services,
at around 100 Kyat per day.
166
Again, limited garbage and cleaning services were
provided in return.
Sometimes taxes are actually levied for services, with phone owners in Mon State
who use the system paying large fees of 150,000 Kyat per month to the agency
which distributes the phone’s signal regionally.
167
As with households, there is no
information about the relationship between the cost of the state providing any
services to businesses and the fees charged. e regulation and state control of the
telecommunications system means that private businesses not connected to the
state involved in the mobile phone business are easy prey to nes and extortion.
168

is is especially the case for owners of mobile phones that are connected to
networks in China, ailand and Bangladesh.
169
ese phones are technically illegal
(though common), providing opportunities for revenue collection by dierent state
agencies.
170
Military commanders are also involved in renting mobile phones that
are connected to networks in neighbouring countries. In Maungdaw Township in
Arakan State the local Tatmadaw commander rents phone connected to Bangladesh’s
Bulletin, 1 October.
162 Ibid.
163 Ibid.
164 e tax rate on income in phone shops were reported at 25 percent; whilst the tax rate on income earned from the sale of jade in the same township was reported,
at 20 percent - KWAT (2010) “Private phone company tax in Myo Ma uarter,” Hpakant Township, Kachin State, Martus Bulletin, 5 January; KWAT (2010)
“Tax on jade in Yuma, Hpakant Township, Kachin State, Martus Bulletin, 17 January.
165 KNG (2008) “Junta collects municipal taxes but provides no service for civilians in Myitkyina,’ Myitkyina Township, Kachin State, Kachin News Group, 12
September - http://www.kachinnews.com/News/Junta-collects-municipal-taxes-but-provides-no-service-for-civilians-in-Myitkyina.html - accessed 23 February
2010; KNG (2008) “Living under duress in Kachin State,” Myitkyina Township, Myitkyina District, Kachin State, 30 September - http://www.kachinnews.com/
Commentary/Living-under-duress-in-Kachin-State.html - accessed 23 February 2010.
166 KWAT (2009) “Taxes on stalls in Maw Mau uarter,” Hpakant Township, Kachin State, Martus Bulletin, 1 December; KWAT (2009) “Tax on stalls in Maw
Mau Hill,” Hpakant Township, Kachin State, Martus Bulletin, 9 December; KWAT (2009) “Stall tax on Jawng Kawng block,” Hpakant Township, Kachin State,
Martus Bulletin, 8 December; KWAT (2010) “Stall tax in Hpakant,” Hpakant Township, Kachin State, Martus Bulletin, 5 January; KWAT (2010) “Stall tax in
Maw Mau uarter,” Hpakant Township, Kachin State, Martus Bulletin, 12 January.
167 HFROM (2009) “Phone tapping by local authorities leads to economic hardship for phone owners,” Ye Township, Ye District, Mon State, Martus Bulletin, 1
January.
168 Myo ein (2010) “Businesses accuse Htoo Trading of unfair monopolization,” Rangoon Township, Rangoon Division, Mizzima News, 22 January - http://www.
bnionline.net/news/mizzima/7742-businesses-accuse-htoo-trading-of-unfair-monopolization-.html - accessed 8 March 2010; Kyaw Zin Htun (2010) “MPT
rolls out 450MHz phone network,” Myanmar Times, 4 March http://www.mmtimes.com/2010/info/512/it51201.html - accessed 9 March 2010.
169 Burma Issues (2009) “DKBA tax for phone,” Kawkareik Township, Kawkareik District, Karen State, Martus Bulletin, 30 November.
170 Kaladan Press (2009) “Nasaka using new strategy to extort money,” Maungdaw Township, Maungdaw District, Arakan State, Kaladan Press, 18 August - http://
www.bnionline.net/news/kaladan/6872-nasaka-using-new-strategy-to-extort-money.html - accessed 8 March 2010; Kaladan Press (2009) “Authorities extort
money on new pretext from Rohingya community,” Maungdaw Township, Maungdaw District, Arakan State – http://www.bnionline.net/news/kaladan/7004-
authorities-extort-money-on-new-pretext-from-rohingya-community.html - accessed 22 March 2010; Kaladan Press (2010) “Nasaka’s arbitrary arrest and
extortion in Maungdaw,” Maungdaw Township, Maungdaw District, Arakan State, 11 February - http://www.bnionline.net/news/kaladan/7884-nasakas-
arbitrary-arrest-and-extortion-in-maungdaw.html - accessed 22 March 2010.
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“We have to give them so much that our stomachs are empty of food”
mobile network at a monthly rate of 150,000 Kyat.
171
Businesses who rent their
phones from the military commander can sell phone calls to individuals in the open
market. ose who use phones connected to networks in neighbouring countries
without payment to the local authorities must use the phones covertly.
Many of the fees levied by agencies associated with the state are not the providers
of any services. For example, businesses based on land line phones provided by the
Burma’s state have to obtain permission and negotiate a fee with local authorities, to
sell individual phones calls.
172
One such business in Mon State in 2009 had to pay
monthly payments of 2,000 Kyat to the local army battalion, and 40,000 Kyat to
local military intelligence. Phone owners also had to pay 150,000 Kyat per month
to the service provider, the Myanmar Post and Telecommunications for line rental.
Another (implicit) tax was imposed at the beginning of 2009, when phone owners
were told to monitor the calls of their clients, which resulted in decrease in the
number and length of phone calls, since clients were wary of surveillance.
173
is
practice of paying fees to agencies associated with the state that are not the providers
of the service is common practice.
174
Except that monopoly licensing practices by the
state in the area of telecommunications increases the price charged.
Taxes on Machinery and Equipment: According to Burma’s Income Tax Law 1974,
most businesses can deduct a depreciation allowance for equipment. Businesses
exempt from this include entertainment, hotels, restaurants, beauty parlours and
gyms.
175
Nevertheless, equipment owned by businesses can be subject to taxation,
rather than a source for a depreciation allowance.
176
Examples include rice milling
equipment, chainsaws, televisions, and sound and karaoke systems.
177

New taxes have also been levied on equipment owned by business, one such new
tax was that levied on shops with TVs and sound systems. For example, in July 2009
the TPDC in Mudon Township in Mon State introduced a tax on businesses with
television and entertainment systems.
178
In Mudon Township the size of the tax
depended on whether the shop was located in a city or in a rural area. Shops with
televisions and sound systems in the towns were each taxed 10,000 Kyat, whilst
shops designated as being in rural areas were taxed at a considerably higher rate
between 45,000 and 50,000 Kyat.
179
In previous years the same businesses had only
had to pay an annual tax to the TPDC of 1,000 Kyat.
180
A similar tax was reported
171 Maung Aye (2010) “Nasaka Commander makes 10 million Kyat a month renting Bangladesh phones,” Maungdaw Township, Maungdaw District, Arakan State,
Narinjara News, 8 March - http://www.bnionline.net/news/narinjara/8054-nasaka-commander-makes-10-million-kyat-a-month-renting-bangladesh-phones.
html - accessed 22 March 2010.
172 HURFOM (2009) “Phone tapping by local authorities leads to economic hardship for phone owners,” Ye Township, Ye District, Mon State, Martus Bulletin, 1
January. In Khaw-Zar and Lamine Sub–Townships in Mon State the areas covered by the report mobile phones do not work, so homes with land line phones sell
individual calls. Many of the people with phones operate money transfer businesses.
173 Ibid.
174 Burma Issues (2009) “DKBA tax for phone,” Kawkareik Township, Kawkareik District, Karen State, Martus Bulletin, 30 November.
175 Internal Revenue Department Mon State, Ministry of Finance and Revenue “Facts you need to know about taxation,”
176 PWO (2009) “Tax on rice machine in Oilaw village,” Mantong Township, Shan State, Martus Bulletin, 20 October; PWO (2009) “Tax on rice machine in Win
Pat Village,” Mantong Township, Shan State, Martus Bulletin, 21 October.
177 KHRG (2007) “State repression and the creation of poverty in southern Karen State,” Kawkareik District, Karen State, 23 February - http://www.khrg.org/
khrg2007/khrg07f2.html - accessed 22 February 2010; HURFOM (2009) “Causing great economic hardship and food crisis,” Kaleanaung Sub-Township, Tenas-
serim Division, Martus Bulletin, 10 March.
178 HURFOM (2009) “TPDC arbitrary tax demands in Mudon Township balloon,” Mudon Township, Moulmein District, Mon State, 9 September. http://
rehmonnya.org/archives/1003 - accessed 10/09/2009
179 Ibid.
180 Ibid.
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in December 2009 in Rangoon District where licence fees on shops with televisions
were introduced. e fee was levied on a lump-sum basis, at a much higher level
at 45,000 Kyat for each television.
181
e size of the tax led many shop owners to
remove televisions from their premises. Failure to purchase a license was reported to
be punishable with a three year prison term or a ne of 100,000 Kyat or both. Shops
that removed their televisions rather than pay the tax reported a loss in customers, as
many customers come to shops to watch televisions not having them at home. Taxes
can be levied on equipment and storage facilities even when they are not in use.
182

Taxes on Internal Trade: In addition to the licenses required to engage in trade,
taxes are also levied on the actual trade of goods, which is oen unpredictable.
183
If
taxes on trade (as with other taxes) cannot be paid, the traders can have the entire
value of their goods (rather than the size of the tax) appropriated by the state.
184

Common taxes are those levied on merchants involved in the purchase and trade
of agricultural produce. is lowers the amount of trade within the country and
consequently the level of income. Taxes on the movement of goods within Burma are
discussed in the section on “Taxes at Checkpoints.”
e combination of regulation and corruption within state associated agencies
means that fees levied on business vary across the country. One common form of
corruption that increases the taxes levied on businesses is when representatives of a
state agency levy a higher tax or fee than that mandated by the central government.
185

Businesses can have their property requisitioned for use by the state for non-payment
of license and registration fees.
186
Businesses can also have their equipment stolen
not just by the Tatmadaw, but by representatives of the dierent agencies composing
the TPDC.
187
Businesses (as with households) are also subject to extortion by the
Tatmadaw, sometimes in league with the TPDC.
188
Sometimes shops are subject
to extortion by ceasere groups.
189
Extortion by police is also a common practice.
Police commonly levy taxes and exhort money from shops, particularly those that
sell alcohol, oen forced to provide free drinks to the police and their friends.
190

Extortion is common across many other industries. For example, in the sh farming
181 Mizzima News (2009) “Rangoon shops lose customers due to license order,” Rangoon District, Rangoon Division, Mizzima News, 4 December
182 PWO (2009) “Tax on rice machine in Oilaw village,” Mantong Township, Shan State, Martus Bulletin, 20 October; PWO (2009) “Tax on rice machine in Win
Pat Village,” Mantong Township, Shan State, Martus Bulletin, 21 October; A trader in the ree Pagoda (Phayathonezu) Township reported having to pay be-
tween B10,000 and B15,000 per month to keep his warehouse. For more in depth analysis of these businesses see HURFOM (2008) “Protecting their rice pots:
An economic prole of trade and corruption in ree Pagoda Pass,” e Mon Forum, 30 December, p.7.
183 KHRG (2005) “Dooplaya District: Fighting and human rights abuse still continue aer ceasere,” Karen Human Rights Group - http://www.khrg.org/khrg2005/
khrg05f1.html - accessed 19 February 2010; HURFOM (2009) “Prots dwindle under cane and cattle tax,” Kaleingaung Township, Tenasserim Division, Martus
Bulletin, 28 August.
184 KHRG (2005) “Dooplaya District: Fighting and human rights abuse still continue aer ceasere,” Karen Human Rights Group - http://www.khrg.org/khrg2005/
khrg05f1.html - accessed 19 February 2010;
185 PWO (2009) “Inated tax on alcohol shops in Namtsit and Mansat Villages,” Nankham Township, Shan State, Martus Bulletin, 31 October.
186 PWO (2008) “Driver and tor lar gyi forced to carry stone to compensate for unpaid taxes,” Mantong Township, Shan State, Martus Bulletin, 13 March.
187 Burma Issues (2008) “SPDC loot Karenni nation individual supplies,” Demawso Township, Loikaw District, Karenni State, Martus Bulletin, 15 February; KNG
(2009) “Extortion name of the game in Burma’s northern Kachin State,” Myitkyina Township, Myitkyina District, Kachin State, Kachin News Group, 22 May -
http://www.bnionline.net/news/kng/6314-extortion-name-of-the-game-in-burmas-northern-kachin-state.html - accessed 2 March 2010.
188 HURFOM (2007) “Township authorities ordered over 100 rice mill owners to pay for army rations,” Mudon Township, Moulmein District, Mon State, Mar-
tus Bulletin, 9-15 June 2007; KNG (2009) “Extortion name of the game in Burma’s northern Kachin State,” Myitkyina Township, Myitkyina District, Kachin
State, Kachin News Group, 22 May - http://www.bnionline.net/news/kng/6314-extortion-name-of-the-game-in-burmas-northern-kachin-state.html - accessed
2 March 2010; Tin Soe (2010) “Army engineering unit operate like gangsters in Northern Arakan,” Maungdaw Township, Maungdaw District, Arakan State,
Kaladan Press, 12 January - http://www.bnionline.net/news/kaladan/7658-army-engineering-unit-operate-like-gangsters-in-northern-arakan.html - accessed 1
March 2010.
189 KHRG (2009) “Exploitation and recruitment under the DKBA in Pa’an District,” Karen State, Karen Human Rights Group,” 29 June, - www.khrg.org/khrg2009/
khrg09f11.pdf - accessed 21 February 2010.
190 Interview 7 Female; Balu Island; Chaungzon Township, Moulmein District; Mon State – 28/08/09 Mae Sot, Witnesses; PWO (2009) “Additional tax on shop
in Aong Chan Tar uarter,” Nankham Township, Shan State, Martus Bulletin, 15 October; PWO (2009) “Inated tax on alcohol shops in Namtsit and Mansat
Villages,” Nankham Township, Shan State, Martus Bulletin, 31 October.
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“We have to give them so much that our stomachs are empty of food”
industry in Mraybon Township in Arakan State, groups associated with the state
have used the threat of violence (the destruction of their sh farms) to extract
revenue, which is then shared amongst local representatives of state agencies. Again,
those with sh farms were given only given 15 days to pay.
191
In Arakan State,
ethnicity is one determinant of taxation levels, with businesses owned by Rohingya
being subject to higher levels of taxation.
192
Some of this extortion is regular and
predicable, however random extortion is also quite common.
193
Retirement or
replacement from the TPDC can provide an incentive for taxes to be levied on
businesses (as with households). For example when the chair of Mudon TPDC was
to be replaced in 2007, an additional one-o tax was levied on rice mills.
194
ese
taxes were in addition to the 100 to 200 tins of paddy supplied to the Tatmadaw
three months earlier.
195
Taxation of Private Sector Agriculture
Who Levies the Taxes?
As with taxes levied on households and businesses, many of the taxes levied on the
agricultural sector are collected by the TPDC/VPDC, the Tatmadaw and some
cease-re groups. ere is little information about the allocation of the taxes, fees and
nes levied on agriculture. However, we do know that even when taxes are levied for
services that may be useful for farmers, people (given their experience of the taxation
system) are sceptical that the funds will be used for the stated purpose or that it will
benet them.
196
Land Confiscation
ere has been considerable uncompensated appropriation of private agricultural
land by the Tatmadaw and other arms of the state aer SLORC came to power.
197

It is an accepted practice internationally for governments to acquire land for the
purpose of building public infrastructure to improve the public good. However,
welfare is only improved if the loss of the output arising from the appropriation of
agricultural land is less than the benets generated by the state from appropriating
191 Narinja News (2008) “Shrimp farm owners face extortion,” Mraybon Township, Arakan State, Narinja News, 18 September - http://www.bnionline.net/news/
narinjara/4980-shrimp-farm-owners-face-extortion.html - accessed 4 March 2010.
192 Kaladan Press (2010) “Arbitrary tax and tolls imposed in Maungdaw, Arakan,” Maungdaw Township, Maungdaw District, Arakan State, Kaladan Press, 27 January
- http://www.bnionline.net/news/kaladan/7776-arbitrary-tax-and-toll-imposed-in-maungdaw-arakan.html - accessed 1 March 2010.
193 KWAT (2009) “Extortion of money from or la gyi driver in Muse,” Muse District, Shan State, Martus Bulletin, March.
194 HURFOM (2007) “Township authorities ordered over 100 rice mill owners to pay for army rations,” Mudon Township, Moulmein District, Mon State, Martus
Bulletin, 9-15 June 2007.
195 Ibid.
196 HURFOM (2009) “Mudon township residents forced to pay for community tractor, again,” Mudon Township, Moulmein District, Mon State, Martus Bulletin,
25 October.
197 HURFOM (2009) “Interview with extortion victim form Beelin Township,” Beelin Township, aton District, Mon State, Martus Bulletin, 1 October – 14
November; HURFOM (2009) “More than one hundred acres of farmland conscated in Kamawet Sub-Township,” Mudon Township, Mon State, 1-30 October;
KNG (2007) “Acres of orchards and paddy elds in Kachin State conscated by army,” Kachin State, Kachin News Group, 12 July - http://www.kachinnews.com/
News/Acres-of-orchards-and-paddy-elds-in-Kachin-State-conscated-by-army.html - accessed 24 February; LWO (2006) “Villagers in Mongtong are forced to
work for Burma Army,” Maington Township, Maing Hsat District, Shan State, Martus Bulletin, 1 January; Narinjara News (2007) “Army savings in Northern
Arakan go up,” Buthidaung Township, Maungdaw District and Rathedaung Township, Sittwe District, Arakan State, Narinjara News, 20 January - http://www.
bnionline.net/news/narinjara/1203-army-savings-in-northern-arakan-go-up.html - accessed 4 March 2010.
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the land. It is doubtful that any “ocial” policy assessment has been undertaken for
the numerous land and property appropriations that have occurred in Burma, since
SLORC came to power. ere have, however, been numerous assessments of the
impacts on the private sector of land seizures undertaken by organisations publishing
outside of Burma.
The Tatmadaw “Contracts” with Land Owners
Another common practice of gathering agricultural resources by agencies
associated with the state are forced ‘contracts’ between the traditional owners of
agricultural land and the Tatmadaw. One common “contract” is when the harvest
is split between the Tatmadaw and the owner. Another common “contract” is the
appropriation of land by the Tatmadaw, which is then sold. Sometimes the land
is sold to the original owner, other times it is sold to the person willing to pay the
highest price.
198
Sometimes the land is rented back to the owners, who then work
the land.
199
Another type of ‘contract’ is where the former owners are forced to
pay a xed fee per tree or acre to the Tatmadaw in order to harvest their land.
200

Rents, xed fee payments, and splits in the harvest do not necessarily result in lower
output on pre-existing agricultural land, though the uncertainty generated from
such practices would lower investment in private sector agriculture. However,
these “contracts” redistribute income away from the people to the Tatmadaw and its
members.
Monopsonies
A monopsony is a market form in which only one buyer faces many sellers. It is an
example of imperfect competition, similar to a monopoly, in which only one seller
faces many buyers. e enforcement of monopsony purchases of agricultural output
is another method used by the military to extract resources from the private sector.
is occurs when typically the Tatmadaw, or other agencies associated with the state,
use violence or the threat of violence, to ensure they are the only buyer of output.
is results in the price decreasing to below that oered by the market, lowering
the income of farmers aected. is practice again results in a redistribution of
income and resources to the military and other government agencies. For example,
in Namhsan Township in Northern Shan State, a representative of the Tatmadaw
decreed that all tea tree growers in the area had to sell their output to his tea
processing facility, at a price of 800 Kyat per Phake Tar (1 Phake Tar = 1.632932532
Kilogram).
201
In nearby areas the lowest price per Phake Tar was 1000 Kyat. is
198 KHRG (2007) “State repression and the creation of poverty in southern Karen State,” Dooplaya District, Karen State, 23 February - http://www.khrg.org/
khrg2007/khrg07f2.html - accessed 22 February 2010.
199 Narinjara News (2009) “Saka Kha 15 amasses huge funds,” Buthidaung Township, Maungdaw District, Arakan State, Narinjara News, 5 August - http://www.
bnionline.net/news/narinjara/6803-saka-kha-15-amasses-huge-funds.html - accessed 2 March 2010.
200 HURFOM (2009) “Laid Waste: Human Rights along the Kanbauk to Myaing Kalay Gas Pipeline,” HURFOM, May, Appendix 2. Sometimes there is a higher
price attached to each rubber tree, on the original owner for not entering into a contract to tap trees. For example, in Waekali Village in 2007 owners could pay
K750 per tree for tapping or alternatively K1,000 a tree if they did not want to tap the rubber trees.
201 PYNG (2007) “Factory Captain Diminishes the Price of Tea Leaves,” Namhsan Township, Kyaukme District, Shan State, Martus Bulletin, 5 May.
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49
“We have to give them so much that our stomachs are empty of food”
amounts to an implicit tax per Phake Tar of 200 Kyat. Representatives from the
Customs Department were also levying a much smaller tax of 5 Kyat per Phake Tar
on the tea.
202
e tea tree growers were also in debt to the Tatmadaw ocer who,
in addition to controlling the purchase of tea in the area, controlled the sale of
many of the local foodstus. e monopsony price paid for the tea was insucient
to cover the debts many households had
incurred prior to the harvest.
203
Another
example of monopsony purchases comes
from Kyaukpu and Sittwe Townships in
Arakan State.
204
is time local shermen
were forced to sell their catch at below
market prices to one of two sh purchasing
centres operated by the Tatmadaw and the
Navy. e military harassed sherman
and prevented traders from Rangoon and
Mandalay from purchasing sh products
in the area in order to suppress prices.
In another example from Arakan State,
this time in Maungdaw Township, salt
manufacturers have been forced to sell salt
to the local Tatmadaw at well below the
market price.
205

Controls over Crops and Fines
Farmers in Burma can be forced to grow certain crops, such as plants for bio-fuel,
sunowers, rubber trees and summer paddy. Decrees governing the type of crops to
be grown on private land are not technically taxes, but the imposition of these state
controls provides the state with the opportunity to levy nes and implicit taxes on
farmers not complying with decrees.
206
is has important implications for the level
of the household’s income and the policy is oen linked with other taxes.
202 Ibid.
203 Ibid.
204 Narinjara News (2009) “Burmese army exploits sherman,” Kyaukpyu Township, Kyaukpyu District and Sittwe Township, Sittwe District, Arakan State, Narinjara
News, 18 September - http://www.bnionline.net/news/narinjara/7068-burmese-army-exploits-shermen.html - accessed 2 March 2010.
205 Kaladan Press (2010) “Salt producers forced to sell to Nasaka at lower prices,” Maungdaw Township, Maungdaw District, Arakan State, Kaladan Press, 9 February
- http://www.bnionline.net/news/kaladan/7861-salt-producers-forced-to-sell-to-nasaka-at-lower-prices.html - accessed 2 March 2010.
206 HURFOM (2009) “More than one hundred acres of farmland conscated in Kamawet Sub-Township,” Mudon Township, Mon State, 1-30 October; HURFOM
(2009) “Interview: Forced to pay various titles of fees including gas pipeline, village security and government run summer paddy project,” Mudon Township,
Moulmein District, Mon State, Martus Bulletin, 1 October; HURFOM (2009) “Mudon township residents forced to pay for community tractor, again,” Mudon
Township, Moulmein District, Mon State, Martus Bulletin, 25 October; KWAT (2009) “Fines for not growing government seeds Munggu,” Shan State, Martus
Bulletin; PWO (2006) “Villagers forced to grow paddy,” Namhsan Township, Kyaukme District, Shan State, Martus Bulletin, 1 November.
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Land or Property Taxes
207

Taxes can be levied on the number of acres of farmland and in some areas these
have only been recently introduced.
208
is is the case for at least some areas in Shan
and Mon States.
209
For example, in Mongton Township in Shan State in 2009 the
local Tatmadaw began to levy a tax of 20,000 Kyat per acre on the owners of tea
plantations.
210
Another example of this new tax being levied is from Mudon and
anbyuzayat Townships in Mon State, where representatives from the Customs
Department began in early 2010 to suddenly levy a tax of 30,000 Kyat per acre on
rubber plantations. e tax was signicantly larger than the income of most farmers
in the area at the time, which was only around 5,000 Kyat per acre, which was lower
than previous years due to a decrease in the price of rubber.
211
In other areas, such as
Dooplaya District in Karen State, taxes on agricultural land levied on a per acre basis
have been in existence since at least 2004, with the tax in 2005 being 1,000 Kyat per
acre.
212

Taxes on Inputs
According to the Commercial Tax Law 1990, the legislation that governs the
taxation of goods and services; agricultural inputs are exempt from taxation.
However, there are a number of implicit taxes on inputs into private sector
agriculture. Implicit taxes include the compulsory purchases of crop seeds and
fertilizer from the state at above market prices.
213
Taxes on water also appear to be
common, but are oen not related to the provision of services, such as managing
the distribution of water and the maintenance and upgrading of irrigation
systems.
214
e authorities also force farmers to purchase bio-fuel seeds and plants in
compliance with the government’s bio-fuel program.
215

207 A land tax is a tax on the value of unimproved land. is is dierent to a property tax, which taxes the value of the land and the xed improvements, such as
housing and irrigation. It is not clear, if the taxes levied in Burma are land or property taxes.
208 K
199
KWAT (2008) “Agriculture tax in Hpai Kaung Village,” Pangsai Township, Muse District, Shan State, Martus Bulletin; TSYO (2009) “Illegal tax for tea
plantation owners,” Mongton Township, Kyaukme District, Shan State, Martus Bulleting, 1 January.
209 IMNA (2010) “New Customs Department land tax overburdens owners with acreage,” Mudon and anbyuzayat Townships, Moulmein District, Mon State,
Independent Mon News Agency, 1 March - http://www.bnionline.net/news/imna/7996-new-customs-department-land-tax-overburdens-owners-with-acreage.
html - accessed 2 March 2010; TSYO (2009) “Illegal tax for tea plantation owners,” Mongton Township, Kyaukme District, Shan State, Martus Bulleting, 1 Janu-
ary.
210 TSYO (2009) “Illegal tax for tea plantation owners,” Mongton Township, Kyaukme District, Shan State, Martus Bulleting, 1 January.
211 IMNA (2010) “New Customs Department land tax overburdens owners with acreage,” Mudon and anbyuzayat Townships, Moulmein District, Mon State,
Independent Mon News Agency, 1 March - http://www.bnionline.net/news/imna/7996-new-customs-department-land-tax-overburdens-owners-with-acreage.
html - accessed 2 March 2010.
212 HURFOM (2009) “More than one hundred acres of farmland conscated in Kamawet Sub-Township,” Mudon Township, Moulmein District, Mon State, 20
November; KWAT(2009) “Fines for not growing government seeds Munggu, Muse District” Shan State, Martus Bulletin; KWAT (2008) Agriculture tax in Hpai
Kaung Village,” Pangsai Township, Muse District, Shan State, Martus Bulletin; KHRG (2005) “Dooplaya District: Fighting and human rights abuse still continue
aer ceasere,” Karen Human Rights Group - http://www.khrg.org/khrg2005/khrg05f1.html - accessed 19 February 2010;
213 HURFOM (2009) “Summer paddy abuse intensies in Kamawat Village, Mudon Township,” Mudon township, Moulmein District, Mon State, 28 December
- http://rehmonnya.org/archives/1244#more-1244 – accessed 7 April 2010; KNG (2009) “Farmers forced to buy new variety of paddy seed in Kachin State,”
Myitkyina Township, Myitkyina District, Kachin State, Kachin News Group, 27 April - http://www.kachinnews.com/News/Farmers-forced-to-buy-new-variety-
of-paddy-seed-in-Kachin-State.html - accessed 7 April 2010; PWO (2006) “Villagers forced to grow paddy,” Namhsan Township, Kyaukme District, Shan State,
Martus Bulletin, 1 November; PWO (2009) “Various taxes in Namhsan Township,” Namhsan Township, Kyaukme District, Shan State, Martus Bulletin, 18
August.
214 HURFOM (2009) “Summer paddy abuse intensies in Kamawat Village, Mudon Township,” Mudon township, Moulmein District, Mon State, 28 December -
http://rehmonnya.org/archives/1244#more-1244 – accessed 7 April 2010; Karenni Homeland (2008) “Farmers over-taxed by Burmese authorities for irrigation,”
Loikaw Township, Loikaw District, Karenni, 15 September - http://www.karennihomeland.com/NewsArticle.php?ContentID=172 – accessed 9 April 2010;
PWO (2006) “Villagers forced to grow paddy,” Namhsan Township, Kyaukme District, Shan State, Martus Bulletin, 1 November; PWO (2009) “Various taxes in
Namhsan Township,” Namhsan Township, Kyaukme District, Shan State, Martus Bulletin, 18 August;
215 HDRU (2008) “Villagers forced to buy jatropha seeds at a high price,” Kengtung and Langkhurh Townships, Shan State, Martus Bulletin, 1 April.
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51
“We have to give them so much that our stomachs are empty of food”
Taxes on Output
Also exempt from taxation according to the Commercial Tax Law 1990 is
agricultural output. Yet in Karen State it is still common practice for the DKBA and
the Tatmadaw to levy cash taxes on agricultural output.
216
Farmers are also subject
to implicit taxes on agricultural output (notably rice). ese implicit taxes include
the forced sale of agricultural output at below market prices and the conscation of
a percentage of the output, typically by the Tatmadaw.
217
For example, in Tachilek
Township in eastern Shan State in 2010 the TPDC were still purchasing rice from
local farmers at less than half the market price.
218
e taxation on agricultural output
can also be levied on crops that had been previously subject to decrees preventing
farmers from planting the crop. For example, aer the order to farmers not to grow
cucumbers in Hpakant Township in Kachin State had been rescinded, a tax on the
crop was levied.
219
ese taxes are not always high, with one report putting the tax
rate at between 2.5 and 5%.
220
Agricultural output (as with other goods), being
transported throughout Burma are also subject to taxation, which is discussed in
more detail in the section on “Taxes at Checkpoints.” Outright the of agricultural
output (rather than land) is another common method used by the Tatmadaw. As
with the other methods used by Burma’s state the most obvious impact of this is a
redistribution of income to the state or military sector.
Taxes on Animals
Again there is no uniformity in the taxation of animals. For example, in 2009 in
Nanhsam Township in Arakan State a lump-sum tax of 15,000 Kyat was levied by
the police on households with any farm animals, regardless of the number or value
of the animals.
221
Taxation on larger animals, such as elephants is common practice,
though again the size of the tax varies considerably. For example, a tax on elephants
in one village in Pa’an Township in Karen State in 2009 was 200,000 Kyat, whilst
in another village in the same township the tax per elephant was 100,000 Kyat.
222

Reports from Mon State likewise have the tax on elephants levied on a per head basis,
at 100,000 Kyat.
223

216 KHRG (2009) “Extortion and restrictions under the DKBA in Pa’an District,” Karen Human Rights Group, 16 March, p.3 - http://www.khrg.org/khrg2009/
khrg09f4.pdf - accessed 23 March 2010;
217 KNG (2007) “Acres of orchards and paddy elds in Kachin State conscated by army,” Kachin State, Kachin News Group, 12 July - http://www.kachinnews.com/
News/Acres-of-orchards-and-paddy-elds-in-Kachin-State-conscated-by-army.html - accessed 24 February; LWO (2006) “Villagers in Mongtong are forced to
work for Burma Army,” Mongtong Township, Shan State, Martus Bulletin, 1 January; KWAT (2009) “Forced to sell rice at discount to government and education
fee in Nawng Hkai,” Putao Township, Putao District, Kachin State, 2000-untile now Martus Bulletin.
218 e number of baskets of rice produced per acre in the area was not reported. e market price per basket of rice in the area was K6, 000, with a basket being equal
to 20 kilograms. e TDPC paid only K3,100 per basket, with a basket weighing more at 23 kilograms. Zaw Gyi (2010) “Junta Traders buy rice for army at low
prices,” Network Media Group, 25 January - http://www.bnionline.net/news/nmg/7745-junta-traders-buy-rice-for-army-at-low-prices-.html - accessed 1 March
2010.
219 SHAN (2008) “Local authority allows planting of taxed cucumber,” Shan Herald Agency for News, 21 January, http://www.shanland.org/index.php?option=com_
content&view=article&id=1523%3Alocal-authority-allows-planting-of-taxed-cucumber&Itemid=301 – accessed 17 February 2010.
220 Ibid.
221 TSYO (2009) “Illegal taxation for keeping farm animals,” Namhsan Township, Kyaukme District, Shan State, Martus Bulletin, 1 October.
222 KHRG (2009) “Exploitation and recruitment under the DKBA in Pa’an District,” Karen State, Karen Human Rights Group,” 29 June, p.4 - www.khrg.org/
khrg2009/khrg09f11.pdf - accessed 21 February 2010.
223 Private correspondence with HURFOM.
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Other Taxes
ere are in addition to those discussed above, additional taxes levied on agriculture.
For example, in Mon State the Department of Forestry levies taxes on rubber
plantation owners if they want to cut down their old unproductive trees. Not only
are the fees large, at 20,000 Kyat per acre, but it takes more than a year aer the
fees have been paid for permission to be granted.
224
Also, plantation owners (once
granted permission to cut their trees), must pay the local representatives from the
Department of Forestry between 15,000 and 20,000 Kyat for each ton of wood sold,
which is about 10% of the sale price.
225
Tatmadaw and the TPDC/VPDC Businesses
Another impact of the limited nancing of the battalions in the Tatmadaw has
been the establishment of businesses owned by local military units and/or their
commanders. Most of the capital, including agricultural and grazing land has
been conscated from the private sector without compensation.
226
e limited
information about businesses operated by local military units, indicates some variety
in the governance structures and the methods used to obtain the required inputs.
Nonetheless, the threat and use of violence is a common method of allocating
resources to these businesses. Furthermore, the degree that violence or its threat is
used to extract resources depends on the type of business, the nature of the required
inputs and, importantly, the veracity of the local military commanders.
227
As with
the construction of infrastructure, this commonly includes the use of forced labour
on businesses owned by the Tatmadaw and other agencies associated with the state.
228

224 Kawlawi (2010) “Years of corruption chafe Mon State rubber farmers,” Mon State, Independent Mon News Agency, 1 February - http://www.bnionline.net/
news/imna/7807-years-of-corruption-chafe-mon-state-rubber-farmers.html - accessed 2 March 2010.
225 In addition to the taxes and fees levied, owners of rubber plantations are subject to a ra of regulation governing any decisions they can take over the land they
cultivate, increasing the costs of any decisions.
226 AASYC, PYO & MYPO (2009) Holding Our Ground: Land Conscation in Arakan and Mon States, and Pa-O Areas of Southern Shan State, March - http://
www.burmalibrary.org/docs07/HOLDING_OUR_GROUND(en).pdf – accessed 15 March 2010; KHRG (2005) “Doo playa District: Fighting and human
rights abuse still continue aer ceasere,” Karen Human Rights Group - http://www.khrg.org/khrg2005/khrg05f1.html - accessed 19 February 2010; KHRG
(2007) “State repression and the creation of poverty in southern Karen State,” Kawkareik District, Karen State, 23 February - http://www.khrg.org/khrg2007/
khrg07f2.html - accessed 22 February 2010; HURFOM (2007) “e Burmese military battalion based in sub Khaw-Zar Township, Mon State has again started
to force villagers to uproot bushes and roots of trees,” Ye Township, Moulmein District, Mon State, Martus Bulletin, 9-10 January; LWO (2006) “Villagers in
Mongtong are forced to work for Burma Army,” Mongtong Township, Shan State, Martus Bulletin, 1 January; TSYO (2009) “Land conscated by SPDC soldiers,”
Namhsan Township, Kyaukme District, Shan State, Martus Bulletin, 10 October.
227 HURFOM (2009) “Laid Waste: Human Rights along the Kanbauk to Myaing Kalay Gas Pipeline,” HURFOM, May, p.23.
228 AAPPB (2008) “Forced labour in a castor oil plantation,” Sittwe Township, Arakan State, Martus Bulletin, 15 June; Burma Issues (2007) “Villagers forced to clear
cashew nut garden,” Papun Township, Pa’an District, Karen State, 28 June; HDRU (2006) “e VPDC members collect money and force villagers to serve as
labourers for a plantation project,” Myita Township, Tenasserim Division, Martus Bulletin, 15 October; HDRU (2007) “Civilians forced to work in Burma Army’s
paddy elds,” Bhamo Township, Bhamo District, Kachin State, Martus Bulletin, 23 August; HRDU (2008) “Authorities force locals into hard labour in Chin
State,” Matupi Township, Chin State, Martus Bulletin, 8 November; HDRU (2008) “Chin people forced to clean bushes in tea gardens,” Falam Township, Chin
State, 11 July; HURFOM (2007) “e Burmese Army forced villagers including women to work in battalion’s summer paddy farms,” Khaw-Zar Sub-Township,
Ye Township, Mon State, Martus Bulletin, 27 February; HURFOM (2007) “Army plant summer paddy using farmer’s equipment,” Ye and Mudon Townships,
Moulmein District, Mon State, Martus Bulletin, 22 January; HURFOM (2007) “Even university students forced to grow physic nut,” Moulmein Township, Mon
State, Martus Bulletin, 28 June; KHRG (2005) “Dooplaya District: Fighting and human rights abuse still continue aer ceasere,” Karen Human Rights Group -
http://www.khrg.org/khrg2005/khrg05f1.html - accessed 19 February 2010; KHRG (2008) “Forced labour and extortion in Pa’an District,” KHRG #2008-F11,
8 August - www.khrg.org/khrg2008/khrg08f11.pdf - accessed 11 February 2009; KHRG (2008) “Daily demands and exploitation: Life under the control of the
SPDC and DKBA forces in Pa’ann District,” Karen State, Karen Human Rights Group, 18 September - http://www.khrg.org/khrg2008/khrg08f13.pdf - accessed
21 February 2010; LWO (2006) “Villagers in Mongtong are forced to work for Burma Army,” Mongtong Township, Shan State, Martus Bulletin, 1 January; LWO
(2007) “Land conscation from local people,” Mongsat Township, Shan State, Martus Bulletin, 1 July; LWO (2008) “Forced to plant castor oil plants,” Tachilek
Township, Shan State, Martus Bulletin, 6 June; LWO (2008) “Forced to work in rural village,” Tachilek Township, Tachilek District, Shan State, 17 September;
LWO (2008) “Ordered to work,” Tachilek Township, Tachilek District, Shan State, 16 September; LWO (2008) “Forced to plant castor oil plants,” Tachilek
Township, Shan State, Martus Bulletin, 6 June; PWO (2005) “Students from Mantong Township forced to labour on Tatmadaw paddy elds,” Mangtong Town-
ship, Kyuatme District, Shan State, Martus Bulletin, 1 July; PWO (2006) “Villagers in Montong Township forced to work for Burma Army,” Mantong Town-
ship, Kyuatme District, Shan State, Martus Bulletin, 1 January; PYNG (2008) “Villagers forced to plant castor oil ( Jatropha) plants by the military,” Mantong
and Namtu Townships, Shan State, Martus Bulletin, 1 April; Yoma 3 News Service (2008) “Agriculture for military provision and animal husbandry,” Paletwa
report-2.indd 52 10-Jul-10 11:18:02
53
“We have to give them so much that our stomachs are empty of food”
e incentives governing businesses owned by the Tatmadaw and other state agency
controlled businesses means that productivity is lower relative to private sector
production.
229
One of the serious economic outcomes, for state owned businesses
is the limited incentives to invest capital in the business. is is due to the threat of
conscation and that labour can be acquired without compensation and capital can
simply be stolen. e larger the possibility of conscation and the longer the period
required for returns to be generated, as in rubber, betel nut and fruit plantations,
the greater the negative incentive inhibiting the growth potential inherent in the
private sector. In addition to negative impacts on productivity arising from the
appropriation of inputs, is the redistribution of income towards the military and the
state. e appropriation of agricultural land by the state also creates unemployment,
and problems of hunger.
230
Which in some cases has encouraged people to enter
ailand in search of work.
231

Most of the businesses operated by local Tatmadaw battalions and their leaders are in
the agricultural sector.
232
ese include orchards,
233
sh farms,
234
bamboo groves,
235

tea plantations
236
, rubber plantations,
237
sunower farms, paddy,
238
and bio-fuel
crops.
239
Businesses outside of agriculture are in sectors with limited capital inputs,
such as saw mills, transportation, brick making and shing.
240
Some businesses are
controlled by the USDA;
241
whilst other businesses are under the control of the
TPDC.
242
Ceasere groups such as the DKBA also operate businesses, particularly in
Township, Mindat District, Chin State, Martus Bulletin, 3 March;
229 HURFOM (2007) “Army plant summer paddy using farmer’s equipment,” Ye and Mudon Townships, Moulmein District, Mon State, Martus Bulletin, 22 Janu-
ary; Khonumthung News (2010) “Private tea plantations more productive then regime’s,” Khonumthung News, 12 March http://www.bnionline.net/news/
khonumthung/8097-private-tea-plantations-more-productive-than-regimes.html - accessed 15 March 2010.
230 Burma Issues (2007) “Villagers forced to clear cashew nut garden,” Papun Township, Pa’an District, Karen State, 28 June; KHRG (2008) “Forced labour and
extortion in Pa’an District,” KHRG #2008-F11, 8 August - www.khrg.org/khrg2008/khrg08f11.pdf - accessed 11 February 2009.
231 HURFOM (2007) “e Burmese Army forced villagers including women to work in battalion’s summer paddy farms,” Khaw-Zar Sub-Township, Ye Township,
Mon State, Martus Bulletin, 27 February.
232 Narinjara News (2009) “Saka Kha 15 amasses huge funds,” Buthidaung Township, Maungdaw District, Arakan State, Narinjara News, 5 August - http://www.
bnionline.net/news/narinjara/6803-saka-kha-15-amasses-huge-funds.html - accessed 2 March 2010; Narinjara News (2007) “Army savings in Northern Arakan
go up,” Buthidaung Township, Maungdaw District and Rathedaung Township, Sittwe District, Arakan State, Narinjara News, 20 January - http://www.bnionline.
net/news/narinjara/1203-army-savings-in-northern-arakan-go-up.html - accessed 4 March 2010.
233 KNG (2007) “Acres of orchards and paddy elds in Kachin State conscated by army,” Kachin State, Kachin News Group, 12 July - http://www.kachinnews.com/
News/Acres-of-orchards-and-paddy-elds-in-Kachin-State-conscated-by-army.html - accessed 24 February;
234 Ibid.
235 Ibid.
236 TSYO (2009) “Land conscated by SPDC soldiers,” Namhsan Township, Kyaukme District, Shan State, Martus Bulletin, 10 October; HRDU (2008) “Authori-
ties force locals into hard labour in Chin State,” Matupi Township, Chin State, Martus Bulletin, 8 November.
237 KHRG (2007) “State repression and the creation of poverty in southern Karen State,” Kawkareik District, Karen State, 23 February - http://www.khrg.org/
khrg2007/khrg07f2.html - accessed 22 February 2010; HURFOM (2007) “e Burmese military battalion based in sub Khaw-Zar Township, Mon State has
again started to force villagers to uproot bushes and roots of trees,” Ye Township, Moulmein District, Mon State, Martus Bulletin, 9-10 January.
238 HDRU (2007) “Civilians forced to work in Burma Army’s paddy elds,” Bhamo Township, Bhamo District, Kachin State, Martus Bulletin, 23 August; KNG
(2007) “Acres of orchards and paddy elds in Kachin State conscated by army,” Kachin State, Kachin News Group, 12 July - http://www.kachinnews.com/News/
Acres-of-orchards-and-paddy-elds-in-Kachin-State-conscated-by-army.html - accessed 24 February; KHRG (2005) “Dooplaya District: Fighting and human
rights abuse still continue aer ceasere,” Karen Human Rights Group - http://www.khrg.org/khrg2005/khrg05f1.html - accessed 19 February 2010; HURFOM
(2007) “e Burmese Army forced villagers including women to work in battalion’s summer paddy farms,” Khaw-Zar Sub-Township, Ye Township, Mon State,
Martus Bulletin, 27 February; HURFOM (2007) “e Burmese military battalion based in sub Khaw-Zar Township, Mon State has again started to force villag-
ers to uproot bushes and roots of trees,” Ye Township, Moulmein District, Mon State, Martus Bulletin, 9-10 January; LWO (2007) “Land conscation from local
people,” Mongsat Township, Shan State, Martus Bulletin, 1 July.
239 Burma Issues (2007) “Magwe residents complain to ILO,” Pwintbyu Township, Minbu District, Magwe Division, Martus Bulletin, 27 July; LWO (2007) “Land
conscation from local people,” Mongsat Township, Shan State, Martus Bulletin, 1 July.
240 HURFOM (2007) ‘Villagers forced to make bricks for army’s own business,” Martus Bulletin, 1-29 January; HURFOM (2007) “Local residents were forced to
provide timber to army brick factory,” Martus Bulletin, 1 January – 5 March; HURFOM (2007) “People forced to provide timber to army brick factory,” Martus
Bulletin, 5 March; Narinjara News (2009) “Saka Kha 15 amasses huge funds,” Buthidaung Township, Maungdaw District, Arakan State, Narinjara News, 5
August - http://www.bnionline.net/news/narinjara/6803-saka-kha-15-amasses-huge-funds.html - accessed 2 March 2010; Narinjara News (2007) “Army savings
in Northern Arakan go up,” Buthidaung Township, Maungdaw District and Rathedaung Township, Sittwe District, Township, Arakan State, Narinjara News, 20
January - http://www.bnionline.net/news/narinjara/1203-army-savings-in-northern-arakan-go-up.html - accessed 4 March 2010.
241 LWO (2008) “Forced to work in rural village,” Tachilek Township, Tachilek District, Shan State, 17 September; LWO (2008) “Ordered to work,” Tachilek Town-
ship, Tachilek District, Shan State, 16 September.
242 AAPPB (2008) “Forced labour in a castor oil plantation,” Sittwe Township, Sittwe District, Arakan State, Martus Bulletin, 15 June; HRDU (2008) “Authorities
force locals into hard labour in Chin State,” Matupi Township, Mindat District, Chin State, Martus Bulletin, 8 November; HDRU (2008) “Chin people forced to
clean bushes in tea gardens,” Falam Township, Falam District, Chin State, 11 July; LWO (2008) “Forced to plant castor oil plants,” Tachilek Township, Tachilek
District, Shan State, Martus Bulletin, 6 June.
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the agricultural sector, though one report has the DKBA in Pa’an District entering
into tourism.
243
e Tatmadaw and other armed groups are also involved in ‘illegal’
business activities such as logging and drug smuggling.
e Tatmadaw and ceasere groups also levy taxes to support its businesses.
244
Some
of these taxes are unpredictable, whilst others are levied on a more regular basis.

245
Another implicit tax, associated with forced labour is the requirement that
households and individuals utilise their own equipment when forced to provide
uncompensated labour.
246
For example, in Khaw-Zar Sub-Township in Mon State in
2007, households had to provide cows and carts for the ploughing of land controlled
by the local Tatmadaw in preparation for the planting of paddy.
247
Implicit taxation
also occurs when the Tatmadaw and ceasere groups utilise private sector resources
without compensation as inputs into their businesses.
248

The Brick Factories in Ye Township
249

An example of small business owned by the local Tatmadaw based on expropriation
of resources from the private sector are four brick factories in Ye Township, which
began operating in 2006.
250
Two of the brick factories are owned by Infantry
Battalion No.31, with another jointly owned by the battalion’s deputy commander,
and the ex-village head of a local village.
251
Nothing is known about the internal
allocation of resources between members of IB No.31. e land on which the brick
factories are located was conscated without compensation. e threat (and use) of
243 Burma Issues (2007) “Villagers forced to clear cashew nut garden,” Papun Township, Pa’an District, Karen State, 28 June; KHRG (2008) “Forced labour and
extortion in Pa’an District,” KHRG #2008-F11, 8 August - www.khrg.org/khrg2008/khrg08f11.pdf - accessed 11 February 2009; KHRG (2008) “Daily demands
and exploitation: Life under the control of the SPDC and DKBA forces in Pa’an District,” Karen State, Karen Human Rights Group, 18 September - http://www.
khrg.org/khrg2008/khrg08f13.pdf - accessed 21 February 2010; KHRG (2009) “Exploitation and recruitment under the DKBA in Pa’an District,” Karen State,
Karen Human Rights Group,” 29 June, p.1 - www.khrg.org/khrg2009/khrg09f11.pdf - accessed 21 February 2010.
244 HURFOM (2007) “Even university students forced to grow physic nut,” Moulmein Township, Mon State, Martus Bulletin, 28 June; HRDU (2008) “Authorities
force locals into hard labour in Chin State,” Matupi Township, Chin State, Martus Bulletin, 8 November; LWO KHRG (2009) “Exploitation and recruitment
under the DKBA in Pa’an District,” Karen State, Karen Human Rights Group,” 29 June, p.1 - www.khrg.org/khrg2009/khrg09f11.pdf - accessed 21 February
2010; (2008) “Forced to work in rural village,” Tachilek Township, Tachilek District, Shan State, 17 September; LWO (2008) “Ordered to work,” Tachilek
Township, Tachilek District, Shan State, 16 September; HDRU (2008) “Chin people forced to clean bushes in tea gardens,” Falam Township, Chin State, 11
July; AAPPB (2008) “Forced labour in a castor oil plantation,” Sittwe Township, Arakan State, Martus Bulletin, 15 June; LWO (2008) “Forced to plant castor oil
plants,” Tachilek Township, Shan State, Martus Bulletin, 6 June; PYNG (2008) “Villagers forced to plant castor oil ( Jatropha) plants by the military,” Mantong
and Namtu Townships, Shan State, Martus Bulletin, 1 April.
245 HDRU (2006) “e VPDC members collect money and force villagers to serve as labourers for a plantation project,” Myita Township, Tenasserim Division,
Martus Bulletin, 15 October.
246 KHRG (2008) “Daily demands and exploitation: Life under the control of the SPDC and DKBA forces in Pa’an District,” Karen State, Karen Human Rights
Group, 18 September - http://www.khrg.org/khrg2008/khrg08f13.pdf - accessed 21 February 2010; HURFOM (2007) “Army plant summer paddy using farm-
er’s equipment,” Ye and Mudon Townships, Moulmein District, Mon State, Martus Bulletin, 22 January; HURFOM (2007) “e Burmese Army forced villagers
including women to work in battalion’s summer paddy farms,” Khaw-Zar Sub-Township, Ye Township, Mon State, Martus Bulletin, 27 February
247 HURFOM (2007) “Army plant summer paddy using farmer’s equipment,” Ye and Mudon Townships, Moulmein District, Mon State, Martus Bulletin, 22 Janu-
ary.
248 KHRG (2008) “Daily demands and exploitation: Life under the control of the SPDC and DKBA forces in Pa’an District,” Karen State, Karen Human Rights
Group, 18 September - http://www.khrg.org/khrg2008/khrg08f13.pdf - accessed 21 February 2010; PWO (2006) “SPDC forced and ordered cars to carry castor
trees in Nankham Township,” Nankham Township, Shan State, Martus Bulletin, 14 July;
249 e Village Tract is an administrative unit in the SPDC hierarchy. A Village Tract is eligible to become a Sub-Township, if it contains 12 or more villages. Both
Khaw-Zar and Lamine Village Tracts were upgraded by the Ye Township PDC into Sub-Townships in 2003. ere are regular reports of the use of forced labour
in Khaw-Zar Sub-Township, which is in Southern Ye Township. Khaw-Zar was upgraded in 2003 to a Sub-Township from a Village Tract. is administrative
promotion created many problems for locals as the authorities used forced labour to build infrastructure, which they deemed necessary for the promotion. e
administrative promotion also meant that the area has been subject to more frequent visits from Tatmadaw ocials to monitor the town’s progress.
250 HURFOM (2007) ‘Villagers forced to make bricks for army’s own business,” Martus Bulletin, 1-29 January; HURFOM (2007) “Local residents were forced to
provide timber to army brick factory,” Martus Bulletin, 1 January; HURFOM (2007) “People forced to provide timber to army brick factory,” Martus Bulletin, 5
March.
251 HURFOM (2007) “Local villagers were forced to work in Army’s bricks production,” Martus Bulletin, 7 February; HURFOM (2007) “SPDC’s Army orders
villagers to provide timber for army brick kilns again,” Martus Bulletin, 11 April.
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55
“We have to give them so much that our stomachs are empty of food”
violence is the method used to allocate the required inputs, including labour to the
business.
252
One of the ongoing inputs required for these brick factories is wood.
Private households are forced under the threat of violence to provide uncompensated
labour to gather, cut and haul the wood to the factories.
253
For example, four villages
with a total of around 1,000 households were ordered (at least twice) in 2007 to
provide fuel to run the brick kilns.
254
e wood had to be placed close to the main
road where members of IB No.31 could easily collect it for transportation to the
factory.
255
Sometimes, households themselves had to transport the timber to the
brick kilns.
256
Only one village received any compensation from the Tatmadaw
in 2007, aer the intervention of a local monk, who demanded that people be
compensated.
257
In this case the Tatmadaw paid the village for the cost of hiring
vehicles to transport the wood to the factory.
258
At the beginning of 2007 IB No.31
forced 15 people from local villages to provide labour for the business each day and
to undertake guard duty in the evening.
259
is occurred aer the people hired to
work in the brick factories ran away aer not having received any wages since at least
mid-December in the previous year.
260

In some villages households and businesses were forced to buy quotas of poor quality
bricks from the factories, at above market prices. e incentives created where inputs
are taken by force means that product quality is lower and prices higher. e lower
quality output means that the private sector will incur increased costs in the future
(having to replace the bricks at an earlier date), than if produced by a competitive
private sector. Another outcome of these businesses, based on the expropriation
of resources from the private sector is the redistribution of income towards the
Tatmadaw and other armed groups.
The Bio-Fuel Crops and the Absence of Fuel
In December 2005 the SPDC announced that 50,000 acres in each of the nine
military divisions were to be planted with bio-fuel crops.
261
By the end of 2006
reports emerged (which continued into 2010), of groups and agencies associated
with the state engaged in forcing people, under the threat of violence or loss of assets,
to grow bio-fuel crops and garnering resources for bio-fuel projects controlled by the
252 HURFOM (2009) “Laid Waste: Human Rights along the Kanbauk to Myaing Kalay Gas Pipeline,” HURFOM, May, p.24; HURFOM (2007) ‘Villagers forced
to make bricks for army’s own business,” Martus Bulletin, 1 January;
253 HURFOM (2007) “Local residents were forced to provide timber to army brick factory,” Martus Bulletin, 1 January – 5 March; HURFOM (2007) “People
forced to provide timber to army brick factory,” Martus Bulletin, 5 March; HURFOM (2007) “SPDC’s Army orders villagers to provide timber for army brick
kilns again,” Khaw-Zar Sub-Township, Ye Township, Moulmein District, Mon State, Martus Bulletin, 11 April; HURFOM (2007) “Villagers forced to work for a
week to welcome Lt. Gen Maung Bo,” Khaw-Zar Sub-Township, Ye Township, Moulmein District, Mon State, Martus Bulletin, 23 May; HURFOM (2009) “Laid
Waste: Human Rights along the Kanbauk to Myaing Kalay Gas Pipeline,” HURFOM, May, p.24.
254 HURFOM (2007) “Local residents were forced to provide timber to army brick factory,” Martus Bulletin, 1 January – 5 March; HURFOM (2007) “SPDC’s
Army orders villagers to provide timber for army brick kilns again,” Martus Bulletin, 11 April.
255 HURFOM (2007) “Local residents were forced to provide timber to army brick factory,” Martus Bulletin, 1 January.
256 HURFOM (2007) “SPDC’s Army orders villagers to provide timber for army brick kilns again,” Martus Bulletin, 11 April.
257 Ibid.
258 Ibid.
259 HURFOM (2007) ‘Villagers forced to make bricks for Army’s own business,” Khaw-Zar Sub-Township, Ye Township, Moulmein District, Mon State, Martus
Bulletin, 1-29 January; HURFOM (2007) “People forced to provide timber to army brick factory,” Khaw-Zar Sub-Township, Ye Township, Moulmein District,
Mon State, Martus Bulletin, 5 March.
260 HURFOM (2007) “Local villagers were forced to work in Army’s bricks production,” Khaw-Zar Sub-Township, Ye Township, Moulmein District, Mon State,
Martus Bulletin, 7 February; HURFOM (2007) ‘Villagers forced to make bricks for Army’s own business,” Khaw-Zar Sub-Township, Ye Township, Moulmein
District, Mon State, Martus Bulletin, 1 January.
261 Myanmar Times (2006) “Castor beans to be grown for bio-fuel,” Myanmar Times, 9-15 January.
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56
Network for Human Rights Documentation – Burma
state.
262
In some areas households and farmers have been forced since 2006 to grow
bio-fuel crops and provide resources for two plantings per year.
263
Students from
schools and universities have also been forced to grow these crops in the grounds
of their institutions.
264
Again, controls on the use of private property by the state
are not technically taxation, but the policies are linked with the levying of taxes,
both explicit and implicit. Despite the extensive program to grow crops for bio-
fuel, including the widespread forced sale of the inputs into the crops and the use
of forced labour, there are no reports that these crops have been purchased by the
government or that the crops have been used to produce bio-fuel.
Financing Bio-fuel Crops: e nancing of the bio-fuel crop program has involved
the levying of cash taxes and the forcing of households, schools and businesses to
purchase inputs for the program at above market prices. Financing has also involved
the use of forced labour and the expropriation of private land. For example, at the
beginning May 2006, people living near the main road between Mudon Township
and anbyuzayat Townships in Moulmein District in Mon State were forced
by their TPDCs to plant bio-fuel crops along both sides of the road.
265
Each of
these households was ordered to plant at least ve to seven plants in front of their
homes.
266
Nearby households that were not forced to plant the crop were taxed
between 1,050 and 1,500 Kyat to cover the costs of the trees. In areas along the road
where the bio-fuel program had not begun, the anbyuzayat TPDC taxed each
household 300 Kyat to nance future planting.
267

Fines for the non-provision of unpaid labour has been another method used to cover
the resources for the bio-fuel program. For example, in 2006 in Mudon Township
the ne was 500 Kyat per day;
268
whilst in Ye Township in 2007 the ne was levied
at 500 Kyat per day.
269
e bio-fuel crop program has involved the state forcing many
households to purchase the plants and seeds required for cultivation.
270
For example,
262 HREIB (2006) “Villagers in several tracts in Larngkhur Township were conscated and forced to work by IB99 to grow physic nut plants,” Langkhur Township,
Shan State, Martus Bulletin, 20 March; HURFOM (2006) “Inhabitants were forced to plant physic nuts (castor oil plants) in front of their house,” Mudon and
anbyuzayat Townships, Moulmein District, Mon State, Martus Bulletin, 1-31 May; HURFOM (2006) “Villagers forced to remove bushes along motor road,”
Mudon Township, Moulmein District, Mon State, Martus Bulletin, 31 July; HURFOM (2007) “Authorities used forced labour to beautify physic nut yard in
Mudon Township,” Mudon Township, Moulmein District, Mon State, Martus Bulletin, 10-21 May; HURFOM (2007) “Residents were forced to buy and grow
the physic nut plant seeds,” Mudon and anbyuzayat Townships, Moulmein District, Mon State, Martus Bulletin, 1-25 May; HURFOM (2007) “Villagers in
Mudon Township are being forced to grow castor-oil plants,” Mudon Township, Moulmein District, Mon State, 24-31 August; KHRG (2007) “State repression
and the creation of poverty in southern Karen State,” Kawkareik Township, Karen Stated, 23 February - http://www.khrg.org/khrg2007/khrg07f2.html - accessed
22 February 2010; PYNG (2008) “Villagers forced to plant castor oil ( Jatropha) plants by the military,” Mantong and Namtu Townships, Shan State, Martus
Bulletin, 1 April; PWO (2006) “SPDC forced and ordered cars to carry castor trees in Nankham Township,” Nankham Township, Shan State, Martus Bulletin, 14
July;
263 HURFOM (2006) “Villagers forced to remove bushes along motor road,” Mudon Township, Moulmein District, Mon State, Martus Bulletin, 31 July; HURFOM
(2007) “Authorities used forced labour to beautify physic nut yard in Mudon Township,” Mudon Township, Moulmein District, Mon State, Martus Bulletin, 10-
21 May.
264 PYNG (2007) “School forced to cultivate the Castor Nut,” Kyaukme Township, Kyaukme District, Shan State, Martus Bulletin, 15 June; HURFOM (2007)
“Even university students forced to grow physic nut,” Moulmein Township, Mon State, Martus Bulletin, 28 June;
265 It is a common phenomenon for local authorities in authoritarian societies to respond to the decrees associated with national development programs to locate their
‘contribution’ in highly visible locations.
266 HURFOM (2006) “Inhabitants were forced to plant physic nuts (castor oil plants) in front of their house,” Mudon and anbyuzayat Townships, Moulmein
District, Mon State, Martus Bulletin, 1 May.
267 Ibid.
268 HURFOM (2006) “Villagers forced to remove bushes along motor road,” Mudon Township, Moulmein District, Mon State, Martus Bulletin, 31 July.
269 HURFOM (2007) “Authorities used forced labour to beautify physic nut yard in Mudon Township,” Mudon Township, Moulmein District, Mon State, Martus
Bulletin, 10-21 May.
270 HREIB (2006) “Villagers in several tracts in Larngkhur Township were conscated and forced to work by IB99 to grow physic nut plants,” Langkhur Township,
Shan State, Martus Bulletin, 20 March; HURFOM (2006) “Inhabitants were forced to plant physic nuts (castor oil plants) in front of their house,” Martus
Bulletin, 5-31 May; HURFOM (2007) “Residents were forced to buy and grow the physic nut plant seeds,” Mudon and anbyuzayat Townships, Moulmein
District, Mon State, Martus Bulletin, 1-25 May; HURFOM (2007) “Villagers in Mudon Township are being forced to grow castor-oil plants,” Mudon Township,
Moulmein District, Mon State, 24-31 August; KHRG (2007) “State repression and the creation of poverty in southern Karen State,” Kawkareik Township, Karen
Stated, 23 February - http://www.khrg.org/khrg2007/khrg07f2.html - accessed 22 February 2010; PYNG (2008) “Villagers forced to plant castor oil ( Jatropha)
plants by the military,” Mantong and Namtu Townships, Shan State, Martus Bulletin, 1 April.
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57
“We have to give them so much that our stomachs are empty of food”
in 2007 the TPDC in Mudon and anbyuzayat Townships, forced households to
purchase between two and three bowls of seeds at a price between 3,000 and 5,000
Kyat per bowl. is reected a shi from 2006, where households purchased seeds
and plants from the private sector, but by 2007 control was in the hands of the local
authorities.
271
Bio-fuel plants were initially supplied by the market, but by 2007 the
sale of these were controlled by the authorities. As with other (implicit) taxes the
prices for seeds and plants dier widely across time and place.
In other areas where sugarcane and tobacco was grown, owners of the land have
been forced to grow the physic nut plant.
272
e amount of land that households
were forced to assign to the cultivation of the physic nut plant was based on a rough
assessment of the household’s wealth.
273
Sometimes vehicles (and their drivers) are
requisitioned to carry the castor plant.
274

Economic Loss from the Bio-fuel Program: e central problem with the bio-
fuel crop program is that there is no incentive for households to cultivate bio-fuel
crops once they are planted. In many cases households do not have ownership rights
over the crops they plant. For example in Mudon Township villages were ordered
by the TPDC, and supervised by Tatmadaw soldiers, to plant bio-fuel crops in their
gardens, beside fences and in front of their homes.
275
e forced plantings occur each
year, but as people have no incentive to care for the plants, most die or are eaten by
cows, bualoes and other livestock.
276

ere are no established markets in bio-fuel crops (apart from the plants and
seeds sold to those who are forced to plant the crop) and Burma does not have the
technical capacity to produce bio-fuel. e absence of any market in the output
means that all the inputs, including wages foregone due to forced labour, taxes (cash
and in-kind) levied on households to nance the planting and cultivation of crops,
and the income allocated to purchasing seeds and plants, were not used to produce
goods and services desired by households and businesses. ese inputs represent
forgone income for both the state, military and the private sector. e economic
losses from this programme, for a commensurate amount of resources, are more
severe than even the taking of resources by the state for business and infrastructure
building. e resources garnered for these purpose typically involve a transfer of
income from the private sector to the state, rather than an aggregate loss of income.
e bio-fuel program has simply lowered aggregate income for both the state and the
private sector. In some cases the bio-fuel crop program has involved destruction of
agricultural crops, particularly trees on plantations. is is not just a once-o loss of
income, but represents ongoing income losses. For example, in Mudon Township in
Mon State, where owners of rubber plantations were forced to cut down rubber trees
271 HURFOM (2007) “Residents were forced to buy and grow the physic nut plant seeds,” Mudon and anbyuzayat Townships, Moulmein District, Mon State,
Martus Bulletin, 1-25 May;
272 HREIB (2006) “Villagers in several tracts in Larngkhur Township were conscated and forced to work by IB99 to grow physic nut plants,” Langkhur Township,
Shan State, Martus Bulletin, 20 March.
273 Ibid.
274 PWO (2006) “SPDC forced and ordered cars to carry castor trees in Nankham Township,” Nankham Township, Shan State, Martus Bulletin, 14 July;
275 HURFOM (2007) “Villagers in Mudon Township are being forced to grow castor-oil plants,” Mudon Township, Moulmein District, Mon State, 24-31 August.
276 HURFOM (2007) “Residents were forced to buy and grow the physic nut plant seeds,” Mudon and anbyuzayat Townships, Moulmein District, Mon State,
Martus Bulletin, 1-25 May; HURFOM (2007) “Villagers in Mudon Township are being forced to grow castor-oil plants,” Mudon Township, Moulmein District,
Mon State, 24-31 August.
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58
Network for Human Rights Documentation – Burma
to plant bio-fuel crops.
277
At the end of 2009, reports emerged that the government
decided to move from its program of forcing people to grow bio-fuel crops, to
extracting resources to build processing bio-fuel plants.
278

Taxes at Checkpoints
Official Taxes on Goods and Services
ere are several dierent types of taxes that can be levied on commodities and
goods and services. One of these is taxes levied on goods and services sold within
a country. ere are two general methods of levying these taxes. One is referred
to as a sales or consumption tax, which is levied at the end of the production
process. Alternatively, a value added tax (VAT) can be imposed at each stage of the
production process. e taxation on goods and services sold within Burma is on
paper governed by legislation (Commercial Tax Law 1990), which mandates the
levying of taxes on goods at the end of the production process. is legislation, even
if it did govern the taxes levied on goods and services is not simple to administer,
with the rate of taxation ocially varying between 5 and 25% for most goods
and services. Furthermore, there are 72 goods ocially exempt from the sales tax.
ese include basic food, educational materials, clothing and agricultural inputs
and outputs. e rate of taxation on other items such as jade, precious stones, oil
and kerosene are levied at much higher rates of tax, varying between 30 and 200%.
According to ocial statistics, taxes on goods and services accounted for (in the last
ve years) a very large percentage of recorded tax revenue, at between 40 and 45%.
279

Another common type of tax levied on goods and services are called excise duties.
ese are additional taxes on items such as alcohol, cigarettes and gambling, usually
justied by the perceived negative externalities associated with their consumption.
280

e ocial system of taxation in Burma levies a tax rate of 75% of the value of
tobacco related products.
281
Excise duties on other goods and services vary between
30 and 300%.
282
Burma also has legislation, including the Sea Customs Act and Land Customs Act
to govern the taxation of exports and imports. However, the taxes actually levied
on exports and imports have long been based on decrees that emanate from the
upper echelons of the central government. Hence, there is limited information
on ocial tax rates. e Customs Department is the ocial agency charged with
the administrative responsibility for collecting import and export taxes, though in
practice there is a ra of agencies associated with the state engaged in collecting these
277 HURFOM (2006) “Inhabitants were forced to plant physic nuts (castor oil plants) in front of their house,” Martus Bulletin, 5 May.
278 HURFOM (2009) “Villages in Kyaikmayaw Township forced to contribute money towards castor bean mill,” Kyaikmayaw Township, Moulmein District, Mon
State, Martus Bulletin, 15 October.
279 http://www.csostat.gov.mm – accessed 17 September 2009.
280 Another common source of revenue for governments is state sanctioned lotteries. In other display of increased taxation coming from the central government was
the doubling of the price of Burma’s state run lottery in January 2009. e last increase in the price of tickets occurred in 2005, where ticket prices were increased
from K50 to K100 - Kyi Wai (2008) “Cost of Burmese lottery ticket to double,” Irrawaddy, 27 October - www.irrawaddy.org/article.php?art_id=14509 – accessed
16 February 2010.
281 Tobacco Control Measures in Myanmar - http://www.moh.gov.mm/le/tobacco.pdf - accessed the 15 February 2010.
282 http://www.csostat.gov.mm – accessed 17 September 2009.
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59
“We have to give them so much that our stomachs are empty of food”
taxes. Export and import taxes are typically the largest percentage of the ocially
collected taxes in poor countries, particularly when foreign traded commodities pass
through a limited number of points and when exports and imports are controlled by
a limited number of wholesalers. As a result it is typically easier to tax companies that
are involved in importing and exporting than companies involved in internal trade.
is is somewhat complicated and mitigated in Burma’s case due to the country’s
long and porous borders, which are controlled by dierent armed groups. People
involved in the export and import of goods at unocial border crossings can fall
prey to extortion. For example, traders purchasing goods in China and using the
Laiza border crossing controlled by the Kachin Independance Organisation are
oen subject to extortion by Tatmadaw soldiers, as they travel to Myitkyina.
283
In
the last ve years recorded taxes on imports at ports and borders has accounted for
between 4 to 8.5% of total recorded taxes, which is a very low percentage of total tax
revenue, particularly for a poor country.
284
Part of this is explained by the absence of
any ocial and publicly available statistics of revenue earned from the taxation of
exports.
285

e ocial taxes levied on goods and services are not the only taxes that aect their
prices. A signicant proportion of the taxes that impact on the price and supply
of goods and services in Burma are levied at the checkpoints along the country’s
transport routes, where agencies associated with the state use the threat of violence
to extract resources as people and goods attempt to move around the country. ese
include checkpoints on the main roads and trading routes.
286

Border crossings, where taxes are levied on exports and imports are also a lucrative
source of revenue for the Tatmadaw, other cease re groups, and other taxing
agencies associated with the state.
287
Taxes are also levied on many of the smaller
283 KNG (2009) “Extortion from car owners on border trade route,” Myitkyina District, Kachin State, Kachin News Group, 6 November – http://www.kachinnews.
com/News/Extortion-from-car-owners-on-border-trade-route.html - accessed 9 April 2010.
284 http://www.csostat.gov.mm – accessed 17 September 2009.
285 Not all exports and should to be taxed at the same rate. ere is a generally agreed upon set of general principals governing their taxation. Firstly, taxes should be
imposed on goods that are produced by a relatively small number of licensed rms, so that evasion can be controlled. Secondly, taxes should not be imposed on
exports and imports, if any increase in price from the tax causes demand to be choked o. irdly, taxes should only be levied on those exports and imports that
are consumed by higher income groups.
286 HURFOM (2007) “Car owners have to pay higher passenger taxes” anbyuzayat Township, Moulmein District, Mon State and ree Pagado Pass Township,
Pa’an District, Karen State, Martus Bulletin, 1 April; HURFOM (2008) “Protecting their rice pots: An economic prole of trade and corruption in ree
Pagoda Pass,” e Mon Forum, 30 December - http://www.taigress.info/politics/p_82.html - accessed 10 February 2010; Kaladan Press (2010) “Seven Nasaka
gates in Maungdaw,” Maungdaw Township, Maungdaw District, Arakan State, Kaladan Press, 17 March - http://www.bnionline.net/news/kaladan/8143--seven-
nasaka-gates-in-maungdaw.html - accessed 22 March 2010; KNG (2009) “Six trucks forced to transport Burmese Army arms and rations,” Kachin News Group,
Muse Township, Shan State, 9 October - http://www.kachinnews.com/News/Six-trucks-forced-to-transport-Burmese-Army-arms-and-rations.html - accessed 23
February 2010; KNG (2009) “Burmese military junta thrives on a cycle of corruption,” Kachin News Group, Kachin State, 9 December - http://www.kachin-
news.com/News/Burmese-military-junta-thrives-on-cycle-of-corruption.html - accessed 23 January 2010; KNG (2009) “Extortion name of the game in Burma’s
northern Kachin State,” Myitkyina Township, Myitkyina District, Kachin State, Kachin News Group, 22 May - http://www.bnionline.net/news/kng/6314-
extortion-name-of-the-game-in-burmas-northern-kachin-state.html - accessed 2 March 2010; KHRG (2009) “Tollgates upon tollgates: En route with extortion
along the Asian Highway,” KHRG #2009-F17, 5 October - www.khrg.org/khrg2009/khrg09f17.pdf - accessed 11 February 2009; KNG (2009) “Extortion from
car owners on border trade route,” Myitkyina District, Kachin State, Kachin News Group, 6 November - http://www.kachinnews.com/News/Extortion-from-car-
owners-on-border-trade-route.html - accessed 7 April 2010; Narinjara News (2008) “Traders forced to pay toll at army gate,” Buthiduang Township, Maungdaw
Township, Arakan State, 15 July - http://www.bnionline.net/news/narinjara/4489-traders-forced-to-pay-toll-at-army-gate.html - accessed 4 March 2010;
Khonumthung News (2009) “Immigration will not be responsible for lost IDs,” Chin State, Khonumthung News, 22 December - http://www.bnionline.net/
news/khonumthung/7598-immigration-will-not-be-responsible-for-lost-ids.html - accessed 1 March 2010; Myo Gyi (2010) “China made motorcycles allowed
to import,” Muse Township, Muse District, Shan State, Mizzima News, 12 January - http://www.bnionline.net/news/mizzima/7659-china-made-motorcycles-
allowed-to-import-.html - accessed 1 March 2010; PWO (2006) “e soldiers and police force Daw Aye Sing to provide labour for road construction,” Muse
Township, Shan State, Martus Bulletin, 1 April; PWO (2009) “Inated tax at ferry port at Hoe Sai village,” Martus Bulletin, 18 September; PWO (2009) “Cons-
cation of MP3 player and phone in Man Tong Township,” Martus Bulletin, 15 August; SHAN (2005) “Taxis boycott bridge tolls,” Shan Herald Agency for News,
13 September - http://www.shanland.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1376%3Ataxis-boycott-bridge-tolls&Itemid=301 – accessed 19
February 2010; TSYO (2009) “Additional taxes for vehicle owners,” Muse and Nankham Townships, Muse District, Shan State, Martus Bulletin, 10 September;
TSYO (2009) “Increased taxes on owners of vehicles,” Nanhkam Township, Muse District, Shan State, Martus Bulletin, 9 August;
287 KNG (2007) “Multi-government agencies forcibly collect tax from traders,” Kachin State, Kachin News Group, 3 July – http://www.kachinnews.com/News/
Multi-government-agencies-forcibly-collect-tax-from-traders.html - accessed 25 February 2010; KNG (2009) “Burmese military junta thrives on a cycle of cor-
ruption,” Kachin News Group, Kachin State, 9 December - http://www.kachinnews.com/News/Burmese-military-junta-thrives-on-cycle-of-corruption.html -
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roads in the country and at checkpoints within townships and villages.
288
Taxes are
levied on bridges, ports and rivers.
289
It is quite probable that this ra of unocial
taxes result in higher rates of tax on goods and services than those levied by the
ocial system. ere are large variations in the size of the taxes levied between the
country’s checkpoints and across the years, making it impossible to ascertain tax
rates. For example, duties on Indian motorbikes (imported via Bangladesh) are
each taxed between 100,000 and 150,000 Kyat; whereas the duties on motorbikes
imported from ailand and China at the respective border gates are only 30,000
and 50,000 Kyat.
290
Reports suggest that tax rates of 50% are not uncommon.
291

ese checkpoint taxes are responsible for increasing the price of goods and services
and lowering the number of protable exchanges. High levels of taxation levied
at checkpoints can lower the opportunities for people in many areas of Burma to
transport their goods to market, directly lowering their income and creating large
dierences in prices across Burma. ese taxes, with their potential to limit trade
may even create shortages of basic commodities in some areas and may increase
prices of those goods. ere are many reports that the high levels of taxes levied
at checkpoints have led to business closures. For example, in 2010 in Kawkareik
Township in Karen State, the increase in the number of checkpoints and the size of
the taxes levied caused otherwise protable businesses in trade and transport to shut
down.
292

accessed 23 January 2010; TSYO (2009) “Seizing money and materials from day labourers,” Nankham Township, Muse District, Shan State, Martus Bulletin,
5 July; Myo Gyi (2010) “China made motorcycles allowed to import,” Muse Township, Muse District, Shan State, Mizzima News, 12 January - http://www.
bnionline.net/news/mizzima/7659-china-made-motorcycles-allowed-to-import-.html - accessed 1 March 2010.
288 KHRG (2007) “State repression and the creation of poverty in southern Karen State,” Kawkareik Township, Karen State, 23 February - http://www.khrg.org/
khrg2007/khrg07f2.html - accessed 22 February 2010; Mehm Oa, Tuka (2010) “Checkpoints cut driver income in Ye Township,” Ye Township, Moulmein
District, Mon State, Independent Mon News Agency, 18 January - http://www.bnionline.net/news/imna/7699-checkpoints-cut-truck-driver-income-in-ye-
township.html - accessed 1 March 2010; PWO (2009) “Inated tax at ferry port at Hoe Sai village,” Martus Bulletin, 18 September; PWO (2009) “Conscation
of MP3 player and phone in Man Tong Township,” Martus Bulletin, 15 August; TSYO (2009) “Taxation increases,” Nankham Township, Muse District, Shan
State, Martus Bulletin, 12 September; TSYO (2009) “Additional taxes for vehicle owners,” Muse and Nankham Townships, Muse District, Martus Bulletin, 10
September.
289 HURFOM (2008) “Protecting their rice pots: An economic prole of trade and corruption in ree Pagoda Pass,” e Mon Forum, 30 December; KNG
(2009) “Children’s death aer fall from bridge ignored,” Myitkyina Township, Kachin State, Kachin News Group, 27 July - http://www.kachinnews.com/News/
Children’s-death-aer-fall-from-bridge-ignored.html - accessed 23 February 2010; Karenni Homeland (2007) “Tolls imposed on vehicles crossing new bridge,”
Karenni, 13 September - http://www.karennihomeland.com/NewsArticle.php?ContentID=107 – accessed 9 April 2010.
290 Takaloo (2010) “Indian motorcycles popular in Arakan,” Maungdaw and Sittwe Districts, Arakan State, Narinjara News, 22 March - http://www.bnionline.
net/news/narinjara/8175-indian-motorcycles-popular-in-arakan.html - accessed 23 March 2010. e higher import duties on Indian manufactured motorbikes,
coupled with higher license fees means that prices are much higher than motorbikes manufactured in China and ailand. is has led some customers in at least
Arakan State to purchase Chinese and ai motorbikes, even though Indian motorbikes are preferred due to their stronger frame, making them more suitable for
the state’s poor roads.
291 TSYO (2009) “Increased taxes on owners of vehicles,” Nanhkam Township, Muse District, Shan State, Martus Bulletin, 8 September.
292 HURFOM (2010) “DKBA extortion plagues Kawkareik Township in 2010,” Kawkareik Township, Kawkareik District, Karen State , 18 February- http://
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“We have to give them so much that our stomachs are empty of food”
One of the serious problems
with the taxes levied at
the numerous checkpoints
across Burma is the lack of
predictability in terms of their
timing and size. For example,
in Kyainseikkyi Township in
Karen State the tax levied on
cattle, varied considerably,
(eve in the same year) with
people sometimes forced to
pay 50,000 Kyat on a herd
of cattle, whilst sometimes
30,000 Kyat could be levied
on one or two cattle.
293
Another associated problem is the unpredictable nature of
extortion when soldiers seize opportunities for extra income. For example, this is
a common (though unpredictable) practice on the road between Laiza in Kachin
State on the border with China and Myitkyina.
294
e uncertainty created by the
inconsistency in the size of taxes lowers the protable exchanges available from
the movement of goods. is has negative impacts on the capacity of people and
businesses to plan, distorting business decisions and lowering the overall level of
protable transactions.
295
is, in turn, lowers the incomes of households and the
overall level of economic growth.
e taxes levied at checkpoints on roads and bridges are collected by TPDC/VPDC,
representatives of dierent ministries and government departments, the police, the
Tatmadaw and the ceasere groups. Taxes at some of the country’s ports are levied
by Burma’s navy and other agencies associated with the state.
296
On rivers and the
sea representatives of the state, including the Customs Department, police and the
navy, also impose taxes on shing and other sea borne vessels. Taxes on boats can
also be levied by ceasere groups and police.
297
Some of these taxes are arbitrary in
the sense that they are unpredictable, whilst some taxes are at least predictable in
their regularity. Additional taxes can simply be imposed in areas upon the arrival of
additional soldiers, either from the Tatmadaw or cease re groups.
298

At many checkpoints the revenue collected is divided between agencies associated
with the state. For example, at three major checkpoints in Kachin State, 18 dierent
rehmonnya.org/archives/979#more-979 – accessed 26 February 2010.
293 HURFOM (2009) “Prots dwindle under cane and cattle tax,” Tavoy Township, Tavoy District, Tenasserim Division, Martus Bulletin, 28 August; KHRG (2007)
“State repression and the creation of poverty in southern Karen State,” Kawkareik District, Karen State, 23 February - http://www.khrg.org/khrg2007/khrg07f2.
html - accessed 22 February 2010
294 KNG (2009) “Extortion from car owners on border trade route,” Myitkyina District, Kachin State, Kachin News Group, 6 November - http://www.kachinnews.
com/News/Extortion-from-car-owners-on-border-trade-route.html - accessed 7 April 2010.
295 KHRG (2007) “State repression and the creation of poverty in southern Karen State,” Kawkareik District, Karen State, 23 February - http://www.khrg.org/
khrg2007/khrg07f2.html - accessed 22 February 2010; SHAN (2005) “Taxis boycott bridge tolls,” Shan Herald Agency for News, 13 September - http://www.
shanland.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1376%3Ataxis-boycott-bridge-tolls&Itemid=301 – accessed 19 February 2010.
296 AASYC (2009) “Burmese navy’s permit for tolls troubles public in Arakan,” Sittwe Township, Sittwe District, Arakan State, Martus Bulletin, 1 July.
297 KHRG (2008) “Daily demands and exploitation: Life under the control of the SPDC and DKBA forces in Pa’an District,” Pa’an District, Karen State, Karen
Human Rights Group, 18 September - http://www.khrg.org/khrg2008/khrg08f13.pdf - accessed 21 February 2010; PWO (2009) “Inated tax at ferry port at
Hoe Sai Village,” Nankham Township, Muse District, Shan State, Martus Bulletin, 18 September.
298 Tin Soe (2010) “Army engineering unit operate like gangsters in Northern Arakan,” Maungdaw Township, Maungdaw District, Arakan State, Kaladan Press, 12
January - http://www.bnionline.net/news/kaladan/7658-army-engineering-unit-operate-like-gangsters-in-northern-arakan.html - accessed 1 March 2010.
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agencies associated with Burma’s state were reported to be collecting revenue.
299
At
some of the lucrative collection points, battalions in the Tatmadaw are rotated, so
that revenue can be distributed more widely.
300
Also, any road can have dierent
groups levying taxes at dierent points, without any coordination regarding the
amount of taxes levied. e limited coordination between the dierent taxing
agencies in their scramble for revenue is one reason for the excessive taxation levied
on roads. For example, in 2007 on the road between anbyuzayat Township and
ree Pagoda Pass, there were around 19 checkpoints collecting revenue, including
two controlled by the Mon National Liberation Army, two by the Karen National
Liberation Army, while the others are controlled by the Tatmadaw, the DKBA and
the Karen Peace Front.
301

Most of the revenue collected at checkpoints is for the private income of members of
the groups doing the levying, rather than as tolls levied for the purpose of nancing
infrastructure construction and maintenance.
302
Only in rare cases are tolls levied to
nance infrastructure. One such case is the Yuzana Company, which has been given
the contract by Burma’s government to build a section of the Ledo (Stillwell) road,
in the Myitkyina Township area. In return the company was granted the rights to
levy tolls on the road.
303
Even when tolls are actually levied to nance infrastructure,
there are still problems. ere is no public information about these contracts,
including the costs of construction and the size of the tolls to be collected.
304
In
some instances tolls and other taxes are levied on locals before construction has been
completed, further complicating accountability, as there are no mechanism to ensure
that these taxes are actually allocated to the stated purpose.
305

Sometimes users pay large taxes at checkpoints, whilst experiencing declines in the
quality of the infrastructure.
306
For example, in Northern Shan State, on the road
between Nankham and Nanpakar in Muse District in 2009, total taxes levied at the
dierent checkpoints along the road amounted to 450,000 Kyat for a truck, despite
declines in the quality of the road. Before the road began to deteriorate a car would
use seven large tins of petrol, but aer cars were using 20 large tins, signicantly
299 KNG (2007) “Multi-government agencies forcibly collect tax from traders,” Kachin State, Kachin News Group, 3 July – http://www.kachinnews.com/News/
Multi-government-agencies-forcibly-collect-tax-from-traders.html - accessed 25 February 2010.
300 KNG (2009) “Burmese military junta thrives on a cycle of corruption,” Kachin News Group, Kachin State, 9 December - http://www.kachinnews.com/News/
Burmese-military-junta-thrives-on-cycle-of-corruption.html - accessed 23 January 2010.
301 HURFOM (2007) “Car owners have to pay higher passenger taxes,” anbyuzayat Township, Moulmein District, Mon State and ree Pagoda Pass Township,
Pa’an District, Karen State, Martus Bulletin, 1 April
302 Narinjara News (2008) “Traders forced to pay toll at army gate,” Buthiduang and Maungdaw Townships, Muangdaw Township, Arakan State, 15 July - http://
www.bnionline.net/news/narinjara/4489-traders-forced-to-pay-toll-at-army-gate.html - accessed 4 March 2010; TSYO (2009) “Taxation increases,” Nankham
Township, Muse District, Shan State, Martus Bulletin, 12 September; TSYO (2009) “Additional taxes for vehicle owners,” Nankham Township, Muse District,
Martus Bulletin, 10 September; Min Lwin (2009) “Kachin recruiting drive launched as tension mounts,” Irrawaddy, 16 June - http://www.irrawaddy.org/article.
php?art_id=16022 – accessed 16 February.
303 KNG (2007) “Junta gives Yuzana Company contract to rebuild Ledo Road,” Myitkyina District, Kachin State, Kachin News Group, 21 November - http://www.
kachinnews.com/News/Junta-gives-Yuzana-Company-contract-to-rebuild-Ledo-Road.html - accessed 23 February 2010. e Ledo (or Stillwell) Road, at 1,079
miles, is to connect Ledo Village in Assam State India to Kunming in Yunnan Province, China.
304 KNG (2009) “Asia World collects tax on road under construction: Hpakant jade mining road,” Hpankant Township, Myitkyina District, Kachin State, Kachin
News Group, 2 January – http://www.kachinnews.com/News/Asia-World-collects-road-tax-on-under-construction-Hpakant-jade-mining-road.html - accessed
23 February 2010; SHAN (2005) “Taxis boycott bridge tolls,” Shan Herald Agency for News, 13 September - http://www.shanland.org/index.php?option=com_
content&view=article&id=1376%3Ataxis-boycott-bridge-tolls&Itemid=301 – accessed 19 February 2010.
305 KNG (2009) “Asia World collects tax on road under construction: Hpakant jade mining road,” Hpakant Township, Myitkyina District, Kachin State, Kachin
News Group, 2 January – http://www.kachinnews.com/News/Asia-World-collects-road-tax-on-under-construction-Hpakant-jade-mining-road.html - accessed
23 February 2010;
306 Narinjara News (2008) “Traders forced to pay toll at army gate,” Buthiduang Township, Maungdaw District, Arakan State, 15 July - http://www.bnionline.net/
news/narinjara/4489-traders-forced-to-pay-toll-at-army-gate.html - accessed 4 March 2010; TSYO (2009) “Increased taxes on owners of vehicles,” Nanhkam
Township, Muse District, Shan State, Martus Bulletin, 8 September;
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“We have to give them so much that our stomachs are empty of food”
increasing petrol costs by 52,000 Kyat.
307
e time to complete the journey also rose
from seven hours to three days.
308
Another example is on the main road between
Buthidaung and Maungdaw Townships in Arakan State, where a check point was
even established aer large declines in the quality of road, due to mudslides and
bridge collapses, so that motorbikes, cars or trucks could no longer use the road. is
meant that taxes were levied on pushcarts and people carrying goods between the
townships.
309
Another example is the Balaminhtin Irrawaddy Bridge in Myitkyina
Township, Kachin State, where the Tatmadaw levies taxes at both ends. However,
none of the revenue is allocated to the maintenance of the bridge, which has resulted
in the deaths of several children using the bridge’s pedestrian walkway.
310
Another
example where tolls and taxes are not allocated to road repair and improvement is
the 63 km road from anbyuzayat Township in Mon State to the ree Pagoda Pass
Township in Karen State, which is close to the ai border town of Sangklabluria.
is road is the major route for people leaving Mon and Karen States to work
in ailand and is an important trade route.
311
e quality of the road is poor,
though there were some improvements immediately aer the NMSP reached a
ceasere with SPDC in 1995, with the road being repaired aer the Monsoon.
312

e road is dirt/clay and is only passable between November and the rst week
of June (outside the Monsoon Season).
313
Along the 63 kilometres there are more
than two dozen checkpoints, operated by various armed groups associated with the
state, including ceasere groups.
314
In the period between 2006 and April 2007
between anbyuzayat Township and the ree Pagoda Pass the total taxes levied
had increased, along with the addition of two more checkpoints.
315
By April 2007
the size of the taxes levied at each checkpoint was between 500 and 3,000 Kyat.
316

Taxes imposed at checkpoints are levied on the type of vehicle and the goods being
transported. In April 2007 car and mini-bus owners were charging passengers
30,000 Kyat each for the journey, with around half to two-thirds of this revenue
(17,000 Kyat) allocated between the 19 checkpoints along the road.
317
Major
checkpoints were installed in Moulmein, Mudon and anbyuzayat Townships
in Mon State in 2008 during the period of the referendum, aer which they were
removed.
318
However, they were erected again in August 2009, with head taxes
between 3,000 and 5,000 Kyat levied on vehicles.
319
In places where the Tatmadaw
is ghting, people can be forced to pay for documents to travel beyond the bounds
307 One tin of petrol = K4,000
308 TSYO (2009) “Increased taxes on owners of vehicles,” Nanhkam Township, Muse District, Shan State, Martus Bulletin, 8 September;
309 Narinjara News (2008) “Traders forced to pay toll at army gate,” Buthiduang and Maungdaw Townships, Maungdaw District, Arakan State, 15 July - http://www.
bnionline.net/news/narinjara/4489-traders-forced-to-pay-toll-at-army-gate.html - accessed 4 March 2010.
310 KNG (2009) “Children’s death aer fall from bridge ignored,” Myitkyina Township, Myitkyina District, Kachin State, Kachin News Group, 27 July - http://www.
kachinnews.com/News/Children’s-death-aer-fall-from-bridge-ignored.html - accessed 23 February 2010.
311 For more in depth analysis of these businesses see HURFOM (2008) “Protecting their rice pots: An economic prole of trade and corruption in ree Pagoda
Pass,” e Mon Forum, 30 December.
312 HURFOM 2007 “Car owners have to pay higher passenger taxes,” Mon and Karen States, Martus Bulletin, 1 April
313 Ibid.
314 HURFOM (2008) “Protecting their rice pots: An economic prole of trade and corruption in ree Pagoda Pass,” e Mon Forum, 30 December.
315 Op cit.
316 Two checkpoints are controlled by the Mon National Liberation Army (MNLA), two by the Karen National Liberation Army while the others are controlled by
the Tatmadaw, the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA), and the Karen Peace Front (KPF) (HURFOM 2007 “Car owners have to pay higher passenger
taxes,” Mon and Karen States, Martus Bulletin, 1 April.
317 One person interviewed stated that each of his passengers incurred around K17,000 in tolls. Another, mini-bus owner carrying 20 passengers was le with only
K200,000 in revenue aer the tolls along the road had been levied, indicating that the tolls per passenger were as much as K30,000. (HURFOM 2007 “Car owners
have to pay higher passenger taxes,” Mon and Karen States, Martus Bulletin, 1 April
318 HURFOM (2009) “Travel restrictions resisted in Mon State,” anbyuzayat Township, Moulmein District, Mon State, Martus Bulletin, 12 August.
319 Ibid.
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Network for Human Rights Documentation – Burma
of their village.
320
Extortion is also blatant and common at many checkpoints with
representatives from dierent agencies conscating goods arbitrarily.
321
Taxes on the Water: Taxes are also levied on the transportation of people and goods
by boat, where limited infrastructure is provided by the state. For example, during
320 HURFOM (2009) “Residents restricted to villages in Tenasserim Division,” Yebyu Township, Tavoy District, Tenasserim Division, Martus Bulletin, 10 August –
14 October.
321 PWO (2009) “Inated tax at ferry port at Hoe Sai village,” Martus Bulletin, 18 September; PWO (2009) “Conscation of MP3 player and phone in Man Tong
Township,” Mongton Township, Kyaukme District, Shan State, Martus Bulletin, 15 August.
Complaint letter to Central Command in Mandalay Division about being charged more than the
ocial rate at a checkpoint (Yoma3)
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“We have to give them so much that our stomachs are empty of food”
the Monsoon when the road between anbyuzayat Township and ree Pagoda
Pass is not passable, the transport route is along the Zemi River. e travel begins at
Kyainnseikyi Township in Karen State and ends at Chaungzon, which is about 15
miles from the ree Pagoda Township. ere are also numerous checkpoints, along
the river, where fees and taxes are extracted.
322
e number of checkpoints on the
Zemi River (as on the road between anbyuzayat Township and ree Pagoda Pass)
uctuates depending upon the security situation and the capacity and willingness
of the dierent armed groups and other agencies associated with the state to extract
taxes and the varying methods used to determine the size of the tax.
323
For example,
at the end of 2008, the groups controlling some the 13 checkpoints on the Zemi
River, were levying lump-sum taxes on boats, with the fee varying between 4,000
and 10,000 Kyat.
324
Other checkpoints were levying taxes per passenger, reported
to be between 1,000 and 1,500 Kyat.
325
At one checkpoint the tax on cargo boats
was reported to be between 20,000 and 30,000 Kyat based on the goods being
transported.
326
e cost of the journey for a single person, which took two days at
the end of 2008 was around 35,000 Kyat.
327

Another example in a dierent area in Burma where taxes are extracted from boats
transporting people and goods is in Sittwe District in Arakan State. To begin
the journey from Sittwe Township permission from the local police is required,
for which a fee of 500 Kyat is charged.
328
At each port on the journey the local
police charge an additional 200 Kyat, which can be paid in oil or diesel, if the
person in charge of the vessel does not have the requisite cash available. At some
ports additional fees are charged by the Customs Department for docking.
329
It is
extremely dicult to avoid fees at each port, as boats are forced to stop, or police will
re warning shots. Having le the port, there are also fees to be paid to the navy.
330

When the local military requires forced labour, the boats can be requisitioned
to carry the labour to the area determined by the military. e customs ocials
manning the docks in the area also extract taxes by selling the tickets for the travel
on privately owned vessels, keeping 20% of the ticket price. In this area, the revenue
from smaller vessels transporting people and goods was around 8,000 Kyat in 2006.
Half of the boat owners’ revenue went to the various taxes levied by the various arms
of the state. Aer other costs are included, notably labour and fuel the prot margin
is slim.
331
Transaction costs are lower for the larger boats as they can pay a monthly
fee to cover all the dierent taxes, and are issued with a letter to certify the payment
of the charges.
332
In Khaw-Taung Township in Tenasserim Division, the navy has
been imposing in-kind taxes on local shing vessels at a rate of ve gallons of oil each
time a shing vessel goes to sea beginning around 2002.
333
e imposition of the
322 HURFOM (2008) “Protecting their rice pots: An economic prole of trade and corruption in ree Pagoda Pass,” e Mon Forum, 30 December.
323 Ibid, p.3.
324 Ibid.
325 Ibid
326 Ibid, p.4.
327 Ibid.
328 Interview 8, Male, Sittwe Township, Sittwe District, Arakan State –28 August 2009, Mae Sot, Victim.
329 Ibid.
330 Ibid.
331 Ibid.
332 Ibid.
333 In 2006 each gallon of oil in the area was reported to be worth K4,540. HURFOM (2006) “Police and Navy extorted money from local villagers in Southern
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tax, especially during periods when oil prices are high, causes shing vessels to put to
sea less oen, as the revenue from the sale of sh is insucient to cover costs.
334
e
Burmese Navy in Ye township in Mon State also imposes an oil tax on shing vessels
going to sea.
335
e navy imposes nes on boats that breach the designated size of
engines and those using car engines to power their boat, which in one area were
reported at 10,000 Kyat per vessel.
336
ere is evidence that the nominal value of taxes collected at checkpoints have been
increasing along with their number, though the amount levied varies on personal
and ethnic relationships, of the persons in charge of the individual checkpoint.
337

e pressure on the DKBA to transfer into a Border Guard Force has led to increases
in the number of checkpoints in Karen State, and the size of the tolls collected in
2009 and 2010.
338
In Ye Township the size of the tolls and taxes also increased
at the beginning of 2010.
339
For example, vehicles carrying passengers travelling
from one village on the outskirts of Ye Township in 2009 had to pay 4,000 Kyat
at a checkpoint established by the Tatmadaw.
340
e one checkpoint inside Ye
Township at this stage did not levy any taxes. However, at the beginning of 2010
the checkpoint had increased its tax to 5,000 Kyat. An additional checkpoint on
the bridge on the outskirts of Ye Township was established by the Tatmadaw, where
a tax of 1,000 Kyat was levied. Upon entering the township vehicle owners had to
pay another 5,000 Kyat to the NMSP. Moreover, the one checkpoint inside Ye had
grown to three, which were each levying 1,000 Kyat on each vehicle. e increase in
the number of checkpoints and the size of the tolls, meant that the taxes levied on
vehicle owners undertaking the journey had increased from 4,000 Kyat in 2009 to
14,000 Kyat in 2010.
341

ere is no consistency across Burma with regard to the methods of determining
the size of the taxes to be levied on vehicles, people and goods.
342
Many of the taxes
are levied on a lump-sum basis, with the size of the tax typically based on the type
of vehicle, with more expensive and being levied a larger tax.
343
e size of the tax
levied on cargo boats can also be based on the size of the boat.
344
Taxes can also be
levied on individuals travelling in cars or boats, paying in addition to those levied on
Burma,” Mudon Township, Moulmein District, Mon State, and Kawtaung Township, Myeik District, Tenasserim Division, Martus Bulletin, 17 March.
334 Ibid.
335 Ibid.
336 Ibid.
337 TSYO (2009) “Additional taxes for vehicle owners,” Muse and Nankham Townships, Muse District, Shan State, Martus Bulletin, 10 September; HURFOM
(2010) “DKBA extortion plagues Kawkareik Township in 2010,” Kawkareik Township, Kawkareik District, Karen State , 18 February- http://rehmonnya.
org/archives/979#more-979 – accessed 26 February 2010; Mehm Oa, Tuka (2010) “Checkpoints cut driver income in Ye Township,” Ye Township, Moulmein
District, Mon State, Independent Mon News Agency, 18 January - http://www.bnionline.net/news/imna/7699-checkpoints-cut-truck-driver-income-in-ye-
township.html - accessed 1 March 2010.
338 HURFOM (2010) “DKBA extortion plagues Kawkareik Township in 2010,” Kawkareik Township, Kawkareik District, Karen State , 18 February- http://
rehmonnya.org/archives/979#more-979 – accessed 26 February 2010.
339 Mehm Oa, Tuka (2010) “Checkpoints cut driver income in Ye Township,” Ye Township, Moulmein District, Mon State, Independent Mon News Agency, 18
January - http://www.bnionline.net/news/imna/7699-checkpoints-cut-truck-driver-income-in-ye-township.html - accessed 1 March 2010.
340 e journey takes about 4 hours and is not passable in the wet season. Prior to the road being built in 2006, people taking the same journey had to walk for two
to three days. In the wet season the only means of transportation is by boat.
341 Mehm Oa, Tuka (2010) “Checkpoints cut driver income in Ye Township,” Ye Township, Moulmein District, Mon State, Independent Mon News Agency, 18
January - http://www.bnionline.net/news/imna/7699-checkpoints-cut-truck-driver-income-in-ye-township.html - accessed 1 March 2010.
342 KNG (2009) “Asia World collects tax on road under construction: Hpakant jade mining road,” Hpakant Township, Myitkyina District, Kachin State, Kachin
News Group, 2 January – http://www.kachinnews.com/News/Asia-World-collects-road-tax-on-under-construction-Hpakant-jade-mining-road.html - accessed
23 February 2010; TSYO (2009) “Additional taxes for vehicle owners,” Muse and Nankham Townships, Muse District, Martus Bulletin, 10 September; TSYO
(2009) “Increased taxes on owners of vehicles,” Nankham Township, Muse District, Shan State, Martus Bulletin, 8 September.
343 TSYO (2009) “Additional taxes for vehicle owners,” Muse and Nankham Townships, Muse District, Martus Bulletin, 10 September.
344 AASYC (2009) “Burmese navy’s permit for tolls troubles public in Arakan,” Sittwe Township, Sittwe District, Arakan State, Martus Bulletin, 1 July.
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“We have to give them so much that our stomachs are empty of food”
the drivers of the vehicles. Individuals can also be taxed on goods being transported,
regardless of whether they are for home consumption or trade.
345
Even bullock carts
carrying produce are taxed.
346
Vehicle Licenses and Fees
Registration and license fees are not technically taxes, but elsewhere, typically
these types of fees are imposed to cover the costs of services provided by the state.
In Burma there is little information about the allocation this revenue from license
fees. is has not changed even with the increased eorts in the last two years to
encourage motorbike owners to pay exorbitant fees to license their vehicles.
Motorbikes and Cars
In many areas of Burma licenses to drive cars and motorbikes do not exist. However,
as with other taxes, there is some evidence that driver’s licenses were being used as
another method of raising revenue. For example, in 2009 in Shan State, the TPDC
began collecting fees with the stated purpose of issuing driving licenses.
347
ose
without driver’s licenses were threatened with additional nes and arrest. In Mong
Yan in Shan State the fee for a motorbike license was reported to be 5,300 Kyat,
whilst in Keng Tung Township in the same state the license fee was higher at 8,500
Kyat.
e importation of cars and motorbikes into Burma is ocially controlled by the
345 Ibid.
346 KNG (2007) “Burmese military forces collect tax on bull-carts,” Myitkyina District, Kachin State, Kachin News Agency, 22 March - http://www.kachinnews.
com/News/Burmese-Military-Forces-to-Collect-Tax-on-Bull-Carts.html - accessed 1 March 2010.
347 SHAN (2009) “Authorities collecting money for driving licenses without issuing them,” Shan Herald Agency for News, 30 April - http://www.shanland.org/
index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=2558%3Aauthorities-collecting-money-for-driving-licenses-without-issuing-them&Itemid=301 – accessed
17 February 2010.
Democratic Karen Buddhist Army checkpoint in Karen State
(HURFOM)
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government, with only a limited number of import licenses issued. ere are also
a limited number of ocial border crossings where motorbikes and cars can be
imported.
348
Some relaxation of the policy occurred in January 2010, when more
companies were ocially allowed to import motorbikes manufactured in China.
ese followed increases in the number of companies allowed to import spare parts
for motorbikes at the end of 2009 aer severe shortages in spare parts arose.
349
e
controls over the importation of vehicles have meant that prices are unnecessary
high. Moreover, the restrictions on the importation of motorbikes have encouraged
widespread smuggling of motorbikes from China and ailand.
ere is no legislation or published regulations governing the licensing of vehicles.
e higher echelons of the government may have provided written instructions
regarding license fees, but these are not publicly available. Vehicle license fees are
essentially one-o taxes. License fees levied on vehicles are excessively high, being
a large percentage of the market price of the vehicle, which in turn signicantly
increases their price. e size of the license fees has encouraged wide-spread non-
compliance, which in turn provides opportunities for agencies associated with
the state to continually impose nes on unlicensed vehicles.
350
In addition to
widespread corruption, there is the related problem of extortion, when the owners
of registered vehicles are ned or taxed for unspecied or bogus reasons. Licensed
vehicles can be conscated by the authorities for the purpose of extorting money.
351

is also encourages people not to register their vehicles, believing they will still be
subject to fees and nes anyway.
352
Fines levied on vehicles are collected by a ra of
dierent agencies associated with the state, though the police appear to dominate
the extortion of vehicle owners. Conscation of unlicensed vehicles occasionally
occurs, associated with eorts by local authorities to force people to register their
motorbikes.
353
Sometimes the conscation of unlicensed motorbikes is used as a
form of political harassment.
354
Another method of revenue raising by the state
associated with the licensing of vehicles occurs when vehicles are impounded and
then sold at auctions. For example, in Myitkyina Township in Kachin State in 2009,
around 1,000 million Kyat was obtained from the sale of 400 unlicensed vehicles.
355

348 Myo Gyi (2010) “China made motorcycles allowed to import,” Muse Township, Muse District, Shan State, Mizzima News, 12 January - http://www.bnionline.
net/news/mizzima/7659-china-made-motorcycles-allowed-to-import-.html - accessed 1 March 2010.
349 May Kyaw (2009) “New regulation introduced for importing car parts,” Mizzima News, 15 July - http://www.bnionline.net/news/mizzima/6657-new-regula-
tion-introduced-for-importing-car-parts.html - accessed 2 March 2010.
350 KNG (2009) “Extortion name of the game in Burma’s northern Kachin State,” Myitkyina Township, Myitkyina District, Kachin State, Kachin News Group, 22
May - http://www.bnionline.net/news/kng/6314-extortion-name-of-the-game-in-burmas-northern-kachin-state.html - accessed 2 March 2010; KNG (2008)
“uiet conscation of unlicensed motorcycles during examinations,” Myitkyina Township, Myitkyina District, Kachin State, Kachin News Group, 12 March -
http://www.kachinnews.com/News/uiet-conscation-of-unlicensed-motorcycles-during-examinations.html - accessed 7 April 2010.
351 KNG (2009) “Motorcycle rickshaws banned during ingyan in Myitkyina,” Myitkyina Township, Myitkyina District, Kachin State, 13 April - http://www.
bnionline.net/news/kng/6125-motorcycle-rickshaws-banned-during-thingyan-in-myitkyina.html - accessed 2 March 2010.
352 PWO (2009) “Tax on machines and motorbikes in Oilaw village,” Mongton Township, Kyaukme District, Shan State, Martus Bulletin, 19 October.
353 KNG (2007) “Resuming unlicensed motorcycle conscation in Myitkyina,” Myitkyina Township, Myitkyina District, Kachin State, Kachin News Group, 18
May - http://www.kachinnews.com/News/Resuming-unlicensed-motorcycles-conscation-in-Myitkyina.html - accessed 7 April 2010; KNG (2008) “uiet
conscation of unlicensed motorcycles during examinations,” Myitkyina Township, Myitkyina District, Kachin State, Kachin News Group, 12 March - http://
www.kachinnews.com/News/uiet-conscation-of-unlicensed-motorcycles-during-examinations.html - accessed 7 April 2010; KNG (2009) “Junta peeved over
lack of applicants for two wheeler license,” Myitkyina Township, Myitkyina Distict, Kachin State, 29 July - http://www.kachinnews.com/News/Junta-peeved-
over-lack-of-applicants-for-two-wheeler-license.html - accessed 9 April 2010;
354 KNG (2008) “Trac police seize unlicensed motorcycles aer festival,” Myitkyina Township, Myitkyina District, Kachin State, Kachin News Group, 15 January
- http://www.kachinnews.com/News/Trac-police-seize-unlicensed-motorcycles-aer-festival.html - accessed 7 April 2010; KNG (2008) “Living under duress
in Kachin State,” Myitkyina Township, Myitkyina District, Kachin State, 30 September - http://www.kachinnews.com/Commentary/Living-under-duress-in-
Kachin-State.html - accessed 23 February 2010; KNG (2009) “Burmese authorities disturb minority Christmas,” Mansi Township, Bhamo District, Kachin
State, 27 December - http://www.kachinnews.com/News/Burmese-authorities-disturb-minority-Christmas.html - accessed 7 April 2010; KNG (2010) “Ethnic
Kachin Manua Festival starts amidst Burma Junta’s Harassment,” Myitkyina Township, Myitkyina District, Kachin State, 6 January - http://www.kachinnews.
com/News/Ethnic-Kachin-Manau-festival-starts-amidst-Burma-junta’s-harassment.html - accessed 7 April 2010.
355 KNG (2009) “Junta rakes in 1,000 million kyat from auction of seized cars,” Myitkyina Township, Kachin News Group, 23 June - http://www.kachinnews.com/
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“We have to give them so much that our stomachs are empty of food”
Similar auctions of conscated vehicles have occurred in other areas of Burma.
356

ere is no immediate solution to the endemic corruption in the raising of revenue
by the many dierent agencies engaged in levying taxes, but the removal of excessive
fees associated with the licensing of vehicles would encourage people to register
their vehicles. Another problem, as with other areas of revenue raising is the
inconsistencies in their implementation, even when a centralised policy exists. e
system of licensing vehicles diers between the states and divisions and even within
their boundaries. However, there are some similarities in the licensing system across
Burma to suggest that the policy originates with the central government. e license
fees for motorbikes and cars are based on the year of manufacture and the model,
which inuences the price of the vehicle.
357
License fees for vehicles are typically
levied for the life of the vehicle (and not annually). License fees for motorbikes, prior
to the end of 2009 were being levied at between a third and a half of the price of
the new motorbike.
358
For example, in Sittwe Township in Arakan State the license
fee varied between 150,000 and 300,000 Kyat for motorbikes made in China and
ailand.
359
However, the license fees for motorbikes made in India in Arakan State
are signicantly higher between 750,000 and 900,000 Kyat.
360
On Balu Island in
Mon State the fee varied between 150,000 and 500,000 Kyat, which was higher
than other areas of Mon State.
361
Between July and November 2008 in Kachin State
the local Transport and Customs Oce sped up the processing time for issuing
motorbike licenses from around a month to two days, with the purpose of increasing
the uptake and consequently the amount of revenue.
362
In Kachin State at the time
and into 2009 the license fees for Chinese made motorbikes were between 150,000
and 300,000 Kyat.
363
Even in areas where the bureaucracy required to process vehicle licenses does not
exist, vehicles are conscated or their owners ned for non-registration. For example,
in Myitkyina Township in 2008 police without warning began conscating Chinese
manufactured three-wheeled motorbikes for not being registered, even though there
was no process available that allowed owners to register these vehicles. Prior to the
conscation it had been common practice for police to ne owners 3,000 Kyat for
the same stated reason.
364
Until recently, the authorities in some areas of Burma have
News/Junta-rakes-in-1000-million-Kyat-from-auction-of-seized-cars.html - accessed 23 February 2010.
356 Hseng Khio Fah (2009) “Wa biggest buyers of seized cars at auction,” Kengtung Township, Kengtung District, Shan State, Shan Herald Agency for News, 23
October - http://www.bnionline.net/news/shan/7290-wa-biggest-buyers-of-seized-cars-at-auction.html - accessed 1 March 2010. e auction price for a Toyota
Saloon with a license was reported to be K1.25 million.
357 HURFOM (2008) “Protecting their rice pots: An economic prole of trade and corruption in ree Pagoda Pass,” e Mon Forum, 30 December - http://www.
taigress.info/politics/p_82.html - accessed 10 February 2010;
358 Takaloo (2009) “Ka-Nya-Na’s new license troubles motorcycle users in Arakan,” Sittwe Township, Sittwe District, Narinjara News, 17 December - http://www.
bnionline.net/news/narinjara/7580-ka-nya-nas-new-license-troubles-motorcycle-users-in-arakan.html - accessed 1 March 2010.
359 Interview 8, Female, Balu Island, Chaungzon Township, Moulmein District; Mon State.
360 Takaloo (2010) “Indian motorcycles popular in Arakan,” Sittwe and Maungdaw Districts, Arakan State, Narinjara News, 22 March - http://www.bnionline.net/
news/narinjara/8175-indian-motorcycles-popular-in-arakan.html - accessed 23 March 2010.
361 HURFOM (2008) “Protecting their rice pots: An economic prole of trade and corruption in ree Pagoda Pass,” e Mon Forum, 30 December - http://www.
taigress.info/politics/p_82.html - accessed 10 February 2010; Interview 8, Female, Balu Island, Chaungzon Township, Moulmein District; Mon State; Takaloo
(2009) “Ka-Nya-Na’s new license troubles motorcycle users in Arakan,” Sittwe Township, Sittwe District, Narinjara News, 17 December - http://www.bnionline.
net/news/narinjara/7580-ka-nya-nas-new-license-troubles-motorcycle-users-in-arakan.html - accessed 1 March 2010.
362 KNG (2009) “Deadline for motorcycle licenses extended in Kachin State,” Kachin News Group, 10 November - http://www.kachinnews.com/News/Deadline-
for-motorcycle-licenses-extended-in-Kachin-State.html - accessed 7 April 2010.
363 KNG (2009) “Junta amasses money while civilians suer,” Bhamo and Myitkyina Township, Kachin State, Kachin News Group 23 March - http://www.kachin-
news.com/News/Junta-amasses-money-while-civilians-suer.html - accessed 7 April 2010; KNG (2009) “Burmese authorities disturb minority Christmas,”
Mansi Township, Bhamo District, Kachin State, 27 December - http://www.kachinnews.com/News/Burmese-authorities-disturb-minority-Christmas.html - ac-
cessed 7 April 2010.
364 KNG (2008) “Living under duress in Kachin State,” Myitkyina Township, Myitkyina District, Kachin State, 30 September - http://www.kachinnews.com/
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not mandated the licensing of
all types of vehicles.
365

In 2009 the license fees
for motorbikes was more
than doubled, with the
introduction of the 17/Ya
license.
366
Again there is
some variation in the cost of
licenses across Burma, even
though the policy originated
with the central government.
Corruption at the local level
has meant that the increase
in the license fees is not the
same across all areas. e
increase in the fees occurred in an environment where corruption meant that fees
for the same motorbikes already diered, prior to the large increase in price. e
large increase in the license fees was also accompanied by enhanced crackdowns
on people riding unregistered motorbikes, as well as the expansion in the areas
where motorbikes are expected to be licensed. For example, in 2009 new and large
license fees, between 100,000 and 300,000 Kyat were levied on motorbikes in at
least Myitkyina and Bhamo Townships in Kachin State.
367
e introduction of the
new license has also been accompanied by increased crackdowns on unregistered
motorbikes. Also, in Sittwe Township in Arakan State at the end 2009, the 17/Ya
licence was associated with a doubling in fees (from between 150,000 and 300,000
Kyat to between 300,000 and 600,000 Kyat).
368
Motorbikes registered under the old
system could have their licenses upgraded by paying an additional 25,000 Kyat fee.
In Mon State at the end of 2009 the license fees were reported to have increased to
similar high levels, and were at between 300,000 and 620,000 Kyat.
369

Despite the introduction of the 17/Ya licence it is not always possible for people to
register their vehicles, as the requisite bureaucracy is not in place across Burma. For
example, motorbike owners in Mon State could only obtain the 17/Ya license in the
capital Moulmein. Regardless and because of the poor uptake of the new license,
police were reported to be pulling over motorbike riders more frequently.
370
e new
licenses for motorbikes were supposed to have been purchased and issued by the end
Commentary/Living-under-duress-in-Kachin-State.html - accessed 23 February 2010.
365 KNG (2009) “Junta rakes in 1,000 million kyat from auction of seized cars,” Myitkyina Township, Kachin News Group, 23 June - http://www.kachinnews.com/
News/Junta-rakes-in-1000-million-Kyat-from-auction-of-seized-cars.html - accessed 23 February 2010.
366 IMNA (2009) “New motorbike licenses spark conict,” Mon State, Independent Mon News Agency, 9 December - http://www.bnionline.net/news/imna/7537-
new-motorbike-licenses-spark-conict.html - accessed 1 March 2010; Takaloo (2009) “Ka-Nya-Na’s new license troubles motorcycle users in Arakan,” Sittwe
Township, Sittwe District, Narinjara News, 17 December - http://www.bnionline.net/news/narinjara/7580-ka-nya-nas-new-license-troubles-motorcycle-users-
in-arakan.html - accessed 1 March 2010.
367 KNG (2009) “Junta amasses money while civilians suer,” Bhamo Township, Bhamo District and Myitkyina Township, Kachin State, 23 March - http://www.
bnionline.net/news/kng/6028-junta-amasses-money-while-civilians-suer-.html - accessed 2 March 2010.
368 Takaloo (2009) “Ka-Nya-Na’s new license troubles motorcycle users in Arakan,” Sittwe Township, Sittwe District, Narinjara News, 17 December - http://www.
bnionline.net/news/narinjara/7580-ka-nya-nas-new-license-troubles-motorcycle-users-in-arakan.html - accessed 1 March 2010.
369 IMNA (2009) “New motorbike licenses spark conict,” Mon State, Independent Mon News Agency, 9 December - http://www.bnionline.net/news/imna/7537-
new-motorbike-licenses-spark-conict.html - accessed 1 March 2010;
370 Ibid.
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“We have to give them so much that our stomachs are empty of food”
of January 2010, though nes were being levied before this date.
371
e high license
fees for motorbikes, despite their being the main mode of mechanised transportation
for people in Burma, appears to have led to many motorbikes in the country being
unregistered, making them a common target for harassment and nes.
372

e stated reason for the dramatic increase in the licensing fees was the removal
of the regulation that prevented motorbikes licensed in one state or division being
legally able to travel outside their boundaries. e removal of this regulation
occurred with the issuing of the 17/Ya license, which ostensibly allows owners
to use their motorbikes anywhere in the country. Rangoon and Naypidaw are
still exceptions, as only agencies associated with the state are allowed to possess
motorbikes in these areas. In many areas of Burma the relaxation of regulations on
motorbike licenses are redundant as the transport infrastructure does not allow for
inter-state travel by motorbike.
ere are also reports of increases in license fees for cars occurring in 2010, but these
are less numerous than those for motorbikes. For example, in Myawaddy Township
in Karen State, near the Maesot on the border with ailand in February 2010, the
annual license fees for cars was increased from 10 to 15% of the price of the car.
373

e increase in the annual license fee was accompanied by a relaxation in the policy
that only allowed cars purchased (or stolen) in ailand to be used locally. Increase
in fees on other vehicles also occurred in 2009. For example, in Sittwe Township fees
on three-wheeled taxis were increased and the license plates for these vehicles were
changed from circular to triangle shaped.
374

License for Boats
All water-borne vessels are ocially
subject to a construction and license
fee, though there is little public
information currently available on
these fees. Despite this scarcity
of information similar problems
to other license fees are evident.
For example in dierent villages
in Pa’an District in Karen State in
2008, the tax levied on motorboats
varied between 22,000 and 100,000
371 Myo Gyi (2010) “China made motorcycles allowed to import,” Muse Township, Muse District, Shan State, Mizzima News, 12 January - http://www.bnionline.
net/news/mizzima/7659-china-made-motorcycles-allowed-to-import-.html - accessed 1 March 2010.
372 KNG (2010) “Ethnic Kachin Manua festival starts amidst Burma junta’s harassment,” Myitkyina Township, Myitkyina District, Kachin State, Kachin News
Group, 6 January - http://www.bnionline.net/news/kng/7624-ethnic-kachin-manau-festival-starts-amidst-burma-juntas-harassment-.html - accessed 1 March
2010; Salai Pi Pi (2010) “Imprisoned Burmese journalists recognized for reporting the truth,” Mizzima News, 27 January - http://www.bnionline.net/news/
mizzima/7768-imprisoned-burmese-journalists-recognized-for-reporting-truth-.html - accessed 1 March 2010.
373 Usa Pichai (2010) “Villagers told to keep an eye on vehicles to prevent the,” Myawaddy Township, Myawaddy District, Karen State, Mizzima News, 25 January
- http://www.bnionline.net/news/mizzima/7754-villagers-told-to-keep-an-eye-on-vehicles-to-prevent-the-.html - accessed 23 March 2010.
374 IMNA (2009) “New motorbike licenses spark conict,” Mon State, Independent Mon News Agency, 9 December - http://www.bnionline.net/news/imna/7537-
new-motorbike-licenses-spark-conict.html - accessed 1 March 2010;
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Kyat.
375
e variation in the tax was reported not to be based on the type or value of
the vessel.
Other Vehicle Fees
In addition to the license fees, vehicle owners can be subject to other fees, which have
been formalised at least at the local level. However, there is no consistency in these
fees across geographical areas, suggesting that these taxes/fees have been mandated
by the local authorities and not the central bureaucracy. For example, on Balu Island
in Mon State, in addition to the initial license fee for motorbikes, a considerably
smaller annual fee of 1,000 Kyat has been levied.
376
Furthermore, individuals, upon
their initial purchase of a motor-bike, must pay an unocial fee of 30,000 Kyat to
the trac police.
377
e payee is issued with a certicate, which must be shown
whenever the owner/rider is stopped. Any owner/rider who does not produce the
certicate has their motor cycle conscated. Motorbikes are the only viable form of
transportation in the area, so the majority of households have had to pay this fee.
378

Car and motorbike owners are also subject to a ra of unpredictable fees and taxes
(in addition to those levied at checkpoints), including extortion.
379
For example,
motorbike owners in Kaw-Zar Sub-Township in Ye Township were taxed a lump-
sum of 30,000 Kyat with the stated purpose of building a primary school.
380
In some
areas the fees are levied on a more regular basis, typically monthly, and oen with
the stated purpose of road repair.
381
For example, in ree Pagoda Pass Township
in Karen State, near the ai border, car owners in 2006 were paying between 300
and 1,000 Baht, each month, based on the type of car. Motorcycle owners were
levied 50 Baht each month.
382
In addition to the monthly tax, vehicle owners in the
Township are subject to irregularly levied taxes. For example, in January 2010, truck
owners were each taxed between 500 and 3,600 Baht, varying on the basis of the type
of truck.
383
ese taxes are collected in Baht due to the close proximity to the ai
border.
Temporary Confiscation
Another unpredictable ‘tax’ is the temporary conscation of vehicles for use by the
Tatmadaw, TPDC and other agencies associated with the state.
384
e temporary
375 KHRG (2008) “Daily demands and exploitation: Life under the control of the SPDC and DKBA forces in Pa’an District,” Karen State, Karen Human Rights
Group, 18 September - http://www.khrg.org/khrg2008/khrg08f13.pdf - accessed 21 February 2010.
376 Interview 8, Female, Balu Island, Chaungzon Township, Moulmein District; Mon State
377 Ibid.
378 Ibid.
379 HURFOM (2006) “Authorities extorted money in the border town,” ree Pagoda Pass (Phayathonezu) Township, Karen State, Martus Bulletin, 1 March;
HURFOM (2006) “Forced labour still continues in Mon State (#2),” Ye Township, Moulmein District, Mon State, Martus Bulletin, 4 April; KNG (2009) “Ex-
tortion name of the game in Burma’s northern Kachin State,” Myitkyina Township, Myitkyina District, Kachin State, Kachin News Group, 22 May - http://www.
bnionline.net/news/kng/6314-extortion-name-of-the-game-in-burmas-northern-kachin-state.html - accessed 2 March 2010.
380 HURFOM (2006) “Forced labour still continues in Mon State (#2),” Ye Township, Moulmein District, Mon State, Martus Bulletin, 4 April.
381 HURFOM (2006) “Authorities extorted money in the border town,” ree Pagoda Pass (Phayathonezu) Township, Karen State, Martus Bulletin, 1 March.
382 Ibid.
383 HURFOM (2010) “Truck owners taxed aer administrator borrows signicant sums,” ree Pagado Pass (Phayathonezu) Township, Karen State, HURFOM, 15
January - http://rehmonnya.org/archives/1280 - accessed 15 February 2010.
384 HURFOM (2006) “Forced labour still continues in Mon State (#2),” Ye Township, Mon State, Martus Bulletin, 4 April; Burma Issues (2008) “Over 300 cars
were used to transport SPDC military food supplies in Mone Township,” Nyaunglibin District, Pegu District, Martus Bulletin, 16 December; HURFOM (2009)
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“We have to give them so much that our stomachs are empty of food”
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conscation also means that households have to bear the costs of repair and
maintenance of the vehicles.
385
Trucks are particularly vulnerable to temporary
conscation, being used to transport supplies for the Tatmadaw, ceasere groups
and other government connected agencies.
386
e conscation of vehicles can be
commuted into monetary taxes. For example, in ree Pagoda Pass Township in
Mon State, near the ai border town of Sangklaburi, the TPDC, at the beginning
of 2010, informed owners of (four and 10 wheeled) trucks that they would no longer
have their vehicles requisitioned to transport goods for the military.
387
Instead all
truck owners would pay a tax every six months to cover the cost of the military hiring
vehicles. e rst tax of 1,500 Baht was levied on four wheeled trucks, and 3,000
Baht was levied on 10 wheeled trucks.
The Economic Impact on Livelihoods
e accumulative eect for many people of these extensive ocial and unocial
taxes is poverty. Such large proportions of people’s incomes and property are
collected by the SPDC and its defacto groups that livelihoods are drastically
decreased, resulting in debt and an inability to access an adequate standard of living.
e next section looks at how the economic impact of Burma’s taxation system and
its collection methods, combined with the minimal expenditure on public services,
aects the people of Burma’s access to human rights.
“Motorbikes and money taken from Yebyu township residents,” Yebyu Township, Tavoy District, Tenasserim Division, Martus Bulletin, 1 January – 1 June; KNG
(2009) “Six trucks forced to transport Burmese Army arms and rations,” Kachin News Group, Muse Township, Shan State, 9 October - http://www.kachinnews.
com/News/Six-trucks-forced-to-transport-Burmese-Army-arms-and-rations.html - accessed 23 February 2010; PWO (2008) “Driver and Tor Lar Gyi forced to
carry stone to compensate for unpaid taxes,” Mantong Township, Shan State, Martus Bulletin, 13 March; PYNG (2007) “Numbers of lorry forced to carry military
supplies,” Mongton Township, Kyaukme District, Shan State, Martus Bulletin, 22 May; PYNG (2008) “Local residents slave for Shweli Hydropower construc-
tion,” Mongton Township, Kyaukme District, Shan State, Martus Bulletin, 15 February; PYNG (2008) “Truck owners were forced to carry military supplies,”
Mongton Township, Kyaukme District, Shan State, Martus Bulletin, 1 June; PYNG (2008) “Local motor bikers forced to work for government poll campaigning,”
Mongton and Namhsan Townships, Kyaukme District, Shan State, Martus Bulletin, 4 May; PYNG (2008) “Soldiers threaten and seize money,” Namhsan and
Mongton Townships, Kyaukme District, Shan State, Martus Bulletin, 18 February; PYNG (2008) “Local residents slave for Shweli Hydropower Construction,”
Mongton Township, Shan State, Martus Bulletin, 15 February; PWO (2008) “Conscation of motorbike,” Mongton Township, Kyaukme District, Martus Bul-
letin, 10 January.
385 PYNG (2008) “Local residents slave for Shweli Hydropower Construction,” Mongton Township, Kyaukme District, Shan State, 15 February, Martus Bulletin,
386 HURFOM (2010) “Truck owners taxed aer administrator borrows signicant sums,” Rehmonnya.org, 15 January - http://rehmonnya.org/archives/1280 -
accessed 15 February 2010.
387 IMNA (2010) “Vehicle owners pay the price for military shipments in ree Pagoda Pass,” ree Pagoda Pass Township (Phayathonezu), Karen State, Independent
Mon News Agency, 6 January - http://www.bnionline.net/news/imna/7623-vehicle-owners-pay-the-price-for-military-shipments-in-three-pagoda-pass.html -
accessed 1 March 2010.
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“We have to give them so much that our stomachs are empty of food”
III. The Impact of Burma’s Taxation System on
Human Rights
“We have no more time to work, no money to give them and not enough
food to survive. We ed our native village in early May, 2009 to avoid
forced labour and the battalions’ arbitrary tax extortions. “
388
T
he present system of taxation is so corrupt and oppressive it is directly
contributing to the deteriorating living conditions of people and particularly
children, in Burma. e system of taxation is not “designed” and
implemented with consideration for its impact on households, businesses and the
broader economy. In fact the system arises from the needs of Burma’s military state,
which has too many soldiers directly supported by taxation. Taxes are too high and
are oen a xed amount, aecting the poorest the most, placing a great burden on
households and business and causing debt. e resulting lower incomes are also
contributing to lowering private sector investment and consequently aecting
economic growth. e taxes at the numerous checkpoints are an extremely serious
impediment to private sector economic activity, increasing uncertainty, lowering the
number of protable exchanges and overall economic activity. is, coupled with
the already low incomes, is seriously aecting the capacity of households to purchase
basic goods and services.
Taxes and other revenue are not used to produce goods and services desired and
required by the people of Burma. Instead tax revenue that reaches the central budget
is mostly allocated to the military and its supporting structures. e redistribution
of income and assets away from the private sector to a non-productive state lowers
private sector investment and the long-term growth of Burma’s economy, and
consequently the rights to an adequate standard of living.
is section of the report builds on the economic analysis of the previous sections
to explore how the economic impact of the high level of taxation and its collection
methods, combined with the minimal expenditure on public services, aects the
people of Burma’s access to human rights.
388 HURFOM (2009) “ Meeting with taxation victims om southern anbyuzayat Township in the border” Mon state, Martus Bulletin
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Burma’s Human Rights Obligations
“Mostly people end up with debt because they oen have to pay taxes to
the military and authorities and sometimes these people are also the people
who make a law to stop people doing their logging , so we have no way of
surviving.”
389
e Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), although not a binding
treaty, sets out the most basic rights that all United Nations member states are
expected to promote and protect. Additionally, e Association of Southeast Asian
Nations (ASEAN) Charter requires Burma to have “Respect for fundamental
freedoms, the promotion and protection of human rights, and the promotion
of social justice”. Burma as a member of the United Nations and ASEAN has an
obligation to adhere to the provisions of both the Universal Declaration of Human
Rights and the ASEAN Charter.
While international human rights law does not prescribe a specic economic system
or how to reform nancial, economic and social policy, it does set out clear priorities
and boundaries. Burma, therefore, has at times legal obligations and at other times
expectations governed by international norms to treat its people following certain
principles. e UDHR requires states to “promote respect” for human rights
through prohibiting arbitrary interference of human rights and by establishing
eective measures to protect persons from racial or other forms of discrimination,
389 ERI (2010) “ Tennisarim taxation on logging in Yepyu township” Tenasserim Division, Martus Bulletin
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“We have to give them so much that our stomachs are empty of food”
harassment, withdrawal of services, or other threats. e UDHR also requires
“progressive realization” of human rights, meaning that a state must take steps to
continuously realise rights
despite its level of development
as a country.
390
is obligation
can entail issues such as public
expenditure, governmental
regulation of the economy, the
provision of basic public services
and infrastructure, taxation and
other redistributive economic
measures. e principle does
not permit the allowance or
deliberate perpetration of
policies and systems which result
in economic injustice and disparity. Burma ignores these principles when it persists
in not allocating sucient resources towards basic social services, in allowing its
public services to be undermined through corruption and in deliberately neglecting
the institutional structures required to deliver these services. is report seeks to
show that Burma’s practice of corrupt and arbitrary taxation and lack of service
provision is on such a level that it ignores these basic principles and boundaries.
International thinking has also developed a great signicance in states developing
measures to improve standards of living of those living in poverty. All United
Nations’ states are expected to take steps to guarantee minimum conditions for
all to live a dignied life, as the United Nations in 1986, declared that the right to
development is an inalienable human right by virtue of which every human person
and all peoples are entitled to. e Preamble of the Declaration on the Right to
Development states “development is a comprehensive economic, social, cultural
and political process, which aims at the constant improvement of the well-being
of the entire population and of all individuals on the basis of their active, free and
meaningful participation in development and in the fair distribution of benets
resulting therefrom.”
Fiscal responsibilities, which involve citizen participation and contain accountability,
can be a tool to development and the fullment of economic and social rights,
enabling the state to reduce inequalities and generate and redirect resources towards
the progressive realization of these rights. However, Burma’s scal policies deprive
people of a basic level of subsistence necessary to live in dignity and continue to
worsen people’s access to human rights. e SPDC practices of arbitrarily depriving
390 As noted by Danilo Turk, the UN Special Rapporteur on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ESCR) : “States are obliged, regardless of their level of economic
development, to ensure respect for minimum subsistence rights for all.”
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property and using forced labour, both human rights violations in themselves,
additionally lead to a lowering of income that impacts on the people’s right to an
adequate standard of living.
Corruption in Burma’s Taxation System
“en they interrogated the villagers and threatened them saying they
must pay tax or they will be arrested. Villagers are afraid of being arrested,
so they collected in the village 50,000 Kyat to give to the police. I do not
remember how many times but they always come and collect when they
want to. We do not know how to deal with this and so we pay them.”
391
Burma’s taxation system is rife with corrupt acts that impact on the human rights of
the people. In 1997, United Nations Development Programme research concluded
that corruption reduces a state’s ability to provide necessary public services and
so it therefore interferes with the right to development. e Seoul ndings
392

condemned corruption as immoral, unjust and repugnant to the ideals of humanity
enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and conrmed the
conviction that all human beings have a basic human right to live in a corruption-free
society. Corruption also undermines economic development because it generates
considerable distortions and ineciency. It results in increases in the cost of business
to the people because of the requirement to make illicit payments and the cost of
negotiating with ocials. It is also essential to recognize that corruption facilitates
and perpetrates the abuse of human rights as endemic corruption cannot coexist
with equality and dignity. is is recognised by UN treaty bodies and UN special
procedures, that have concluded that, widespread corruption curtails states abilities
to respect, protect and fulll human rights obligations.
393
Corruption in Burma is noted in the Heritage Foundation and Wall Street
Journal’s 2010 Index of Economic Freedom has having repressive governance which
interferes heavily with its economic activity and that freedom from corruption is
extraordinarily weak. It sets Burma’s economic freedom score as 36.7, making its
economy 175
th
out of 179 countries.
394
Burma has signed (not yet ratied) the UN
Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) in 2005, which sets an international
391 PWO (2009) “ Deforestation and unfair collection of tax in Ze Bankok village” Shan State, Martus Bulletin
392 e Seoul Findings, 11th International Anti-Corruption Conference, Seoul, May 2003;
393 (See, for example, statements by the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights that “states face serious problems of corruption, which have negative
eects on the full exercise of rights covered by the Covenant [ICESCR]” E/C.12/1/ADD.91(CESCR, 2003, para. 12); and by the Committee on the Rights of
the Child that it “remains concerned at the negative impact corruption may have on the allocation of already limited resources to eectively improve the promo-
tion and protection of children’s rights, including their right to education and health” CRC/C/COG/CO/1 para 14. See also the statement by the UN Special
Rapporteur on independence of judges and lawyers in E/CN.4/2006/52/Add.4. para 96).
394 http://www.heritage.org/index/Country/Burma
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“We have to give them so much that our stomachs are empty of food”
standard. It requires states to ensure that their public services and nances are
ecient, transparent and accountable. Additionally, public servants should be
bound by codes of conduct, have requirements for nancial and other disclosures,
and be subject to appropriate disciplinary measures. e UNCAC prohibits
bribery, abuse of position, illicit enrichment and obstruction of justice. ese are all
crimes that occur repeatedly within ND-Burma’s data on arbitrary taxation. ese
acts additionally go against the key human rights principles of discrimination and
equality; every individual is entitled to be treated equally by public ocials and have
equal access to public services. ND-Burma’s data shows corruption exists within
Burma’s taxation system where government ocials abuse their powers for their
own gain, demanding that people pay a higher tax or fee than that stipulated by the
central government forcing them to give in to extortion and bribery if they are to
survive.
395
People are being forced to hand over goods and cash on the pretext of fees
and taxes, e.g. for ceremonies or development projects and bribes to avoid forced
labour, child soldiering, and being imprisoned for minor oences.
396
is extortion
and corruption directly impacts on people’s human rights as the resulting reduction
in the family income, frequently leads to food scarcity and a decrease in livelihood.
People also have to resort to paying extra fees or bribes to gain access to basic services
such as health and education services. Burma, when it allows corrupt practices
into its taxation system and refuses to install measures to prevent these practices, is
perpetuating the human rights abuses of the people of Burma.
“In order to get an agricultural loan, each village group has to pay 20,000
Kyat to the agricultural administration manager, 3,000 Kyat to the deputy
manager, 2,000 Kyat each to the two administration secretaries, 8,000 Kyat
for the agricultural administration’s approval letter and another 8,000 Kyat
for the landmark department’s approval letter. Each farmer has to give an
additional 500 Kyat for an application form and 100 Kyat more as a form
lling fee. And then the village group has to pay another 15,000 Kyat as an
account checking fee.”
397
ese demands for money, property and labour are backed by implicit or explicit
threats of violence. Despite such risks, however, some rural villagers employ a variety
of strategies to minimise complying with these exploitative demands. Village heads
are sometimes able to appeal to military personnel for reductions and this may be
combined with bribing the ocials to reduce demands on the village. Villagers
395 PWO (2009) “Inated tax on alcohol shops in Namtsit and Mansat Villages,” Nankham Township, Shan State, Martus Bulletin, 31 October.
396 Burma Issues (2008) “SPDC loot Karenni nation individual supplies,” Demawso Township, Loikaw District, Karenni State, Martus Bulletin, 15 February; KNG
(2009) “Extortion name of the game in Burma’s northern Kachin State,” Myitkyina Township, Myitkyina District, Kachin State, Kachin News Group, 22 May
- http://www.bnionline.net/news/kng/6314-extortion-name-of-the-game-in-burmas-northern-kachin-state.html - accessed 2 March 2010. HURFOM (2007)
“Township authorities ordered over 100 rice mill owners to pay for army rations,” Mudon Township, Moulmein District, Mon State, Martus Bulletin, 9-15 June
2007; KNG (2009) “Extortion name of the game in Burma’s northern Kachin State,” Myitkyina Township, Myitkyina District, Kachin State, Kachin News
Group, 22 May - http://www.bnionline.net/news/kng/6314-extortion-name-of-the-game-in-burmas-northern-kachin-state.html - accessed 2 March 2010; Tin
Soe (2010) “Army engineering unit operate like gangsters in Northern Arakan,” Maungdaw Township, Maungdaw District, Arakan State, Kaladan Press, 12
January - http://www.bnionline.net/news/kaladan/7658-army-engineering-unit-operate-like-gangsters-in-northern-arakan.html - accessed 1 March 2010.
397 Burma Human Rights Yearbook 2008, Human Rights Documentation Unit, November 2009
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sometimes lie to reduce the demands such as underreporting the number of villagers
or households in a given village, which reduces the total amount requested. ese
savings can be divided amongst the village or used to lessen the burden on vulnerable
households, such as those headed by widows or orphans. erefore, it is important
that outside groups providing aid or development support should be careful not
to undermine these attempts for example by initiating or supporting registration
processes that contradict deliberately falsied local information. Further details on
these strategies employed by rural villagers are explored by Karen Human Rights
Group
398
.
“We could not refuse to pay them because they would threaten us in many
ways, we were charged with many things, such as being sympathizers of
rebel groups and anti the government, and dissidents. If we were charged
with these cases, they would destroy our houses, plantations and even
our body sometimes. So, we had better stay quiet and pay whatever they
demand from the villagers. Because of this arbitrary extortion of the
villagers, we had to borrow money from money releasers and some people
have to ask their relatives and members of family to send back money
so that they can pay. As for me, when they demanded the money, I had
none so I had to borrow money from my friend and pay her back with
interest.’
399
Arbitrary Interference and Deprivation of Property
UDHR Article 17
(1) Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with
others.
(2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.
“It wasn’t fair – my family had to pay them because they conscated my
plantation last May. If I wanted my plantation back I had to pay more than
500,000 Kyat. In this case I had to borrow from another [person] 400,000
Kyat with a high interest.”
400
398 KHRG (2008) “Village Agency: Rural rights and resistance in a militarized Karen State”
399 ERI (2006) “We always have to pay them and time of their reqirement, and we could leave our stomach to be empty of food” Ye Township, Mon State, Martus
Bulletin
400 HURFOM (2009) “ Meeting with a victim who was extorted by military government ocials in Bee Lin Township” Mon state, Martus Bulletin,
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“We have to give them so much that our stomachs are empty of food”
e SPDC, its agencies and at times some armed opposition groups breach property
rights when they force people to hand over land, housing and other property,
arbitrarily and without appropriate legislation. is level of appropriation of people’s
property is so high that it is impacting on people’s livelihoods and standards of
living. International law states that interference with property for taxation must not
be arbitrary or discriminatory; that it must be proportional and justiable and not
result in an excessive burden to individuals. It must also be subscribed in domestic
law following a fair and proper procedure and executed by an appropriate authority.
401
However, ND-Burma’s data shows a taxation system which continues to breach
these principles, by continuing to forcibly conscate land and other property
without compensation. Property rights are extremely weak, ownership of land is not
permitted, only dierent categories of land use rights. Land is taken and used for
housing and training for the military or to generate additional rations income for
the troops. Such abuses are widespread and have been increasing since 1997, when
the military was instructed to meet its logistical needs locally, thereby condoning the
forced conscation of villagers’ possessions by the military to sustain itself. Land is
also conscated for development projects such as Castor oil plantations, the Shwe
gas project, hydro power damn projects, and to build highways. Land conscation
has been documented in a number of human rights reports concerning ethnic
nationalities.
402

Property conscated includes individuals other belongings such as crops, cattle and
machinery. Excessive taxation and conscation of property and other controls over
the resources in rural areas means that farmers are struggling to meet their basic
needs. Farmers are still forced to sell quotas to the military at below market prices
and to produce two crops a year depleting the quality of the land. Agricultural
land can be conscated if they refuse and there is no avenue for redress.
403
is is
particularly common in remote areas of the country where the army’s repression is
even higher.
“At the moment it feels like everyday our township faces the same
thing with motorbikes being seized and villagers being threatened with
signicant nes. e trac cops wait outside the village, oen concealing
themselves until the last minute, so they are almost like robbers, sneaking
out and seizing the bikes, threatening and ning the villagers.”
404
401 http://www.echr.coe.int/library/DIGDOC/DG2/HRHAND/DG2-EN-HRHAND-04(2003).pdf
402 AASYC & PYO & MYPO (2009) “Holding our ground”, AASTY (2010) “Overview of Land Conscation”, e Arakan Oil Watch (2010) “e Shwe Gas
bulletin” Vol 3, Issue 10, Amnesty international (2010) “e Repression of ethnic activists in Myanmar”
403 Moo Ko Htee (2008) “Mission Impossible, surviving under the Burmese regime” www.burmaissues.org/En
404 Burma Human Rights Yearbook 2008, Human Rights Documentation Unit, November 2009
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e arbitrary nature of this conscation of property can also amount to
discrimination, where people are being targeted because of their ethnic group, such
as at check points where being taxed or ned can depend on the personal and ethnic
relationships, of the persons in charge of the individual checkpoint.
405
Additionally,
the selective reallocation of people’s belongings further increases the geographical
inequities in the tax system, with the civilian population in the border states bearing
the greater burden.
Stripping people of the land upon which their livelihoods are based, without
providing adequate compensation, results in a decrease or abolition of income and
therefore threatens food security and access to education and health services. is
form of raising revenue not only breaches property rights but the loss of income
it results in can additionally contribute to violating the right to an adequate living
standard.
405 TSYO (2009) “Additional taxes for vehicle owners,” Muse and Nankham Townships, Muse District, Shan State, Martus Bulletin, 10 September; HURFOM
(2010) “DKBA extortion plagues Kawkareik Township in 2010,” Kawkareik Township, Kawkareik District, Karen State , 18 February- http://rehmonnya.
org/archives/979#more-979 – accessed 26 February 2010; Mehm Oa, Tuka (2010) “Checkpoints cut driver income in Ye Township,” Ye Township, Moulmein
District, Mon State, Independent Mon News Agency, 18 January - http://www.bnionline.net/news/imna/7699-checkpoints-cut-truck-driver-income-in-ye-
township.html - accessed 1 March 2010, HURFOM (2009) “Interview with extortion victim form Beelin Township,” Beelin Township, aton District, Mon
State, Martus Bulletin, 1 October; HURFOM (2009) “Myawaddy residents caught in clash over rice contributions,” Myawaddy Township, Kawkareik District,
Karen State, Martus Bulletin, 10 October; HURFOM (2009) “DKBA extorts money and food supplies from Karen State villagers,” Kyainnseikyi Township,
Kawkareik Township, Karen State, Martus Bulletin, 9 September; HURFOM (2009) “Villagers were forced to pay by insurgent group and SPDC soldiers,” Yebyu
Township, Tavoy District, Tenasserim Division, 7 August.
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“We have to give them so much that our stomachs are empty of food”
Forced Labour
UDHR Article 4
No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be
prohibited in all their forms.
“When the pipeline project started we had to work as unpaid workers one
week per month…for nearly 3 months. We had to bring food for ourselves.
If someone could not go to work, they have to nd a replacement. We have
to hire someone. e price was so expensive – it cost 3,000 Kyat [for one
day]. at is why many women and children were involved as workers on
the pipeline.”
406
Forced labour is another method the SPDC uses to extract resources from the
people. Forced labour is a human rights violation in its own right but also impacts
on the rights to development and adequate standard of living. Burma has acceded to
the International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention No. 29 which prohibits
forced labour, and in 2000 it issued an order outlawing the practice. However, forced
labour continues to be a policy and practice of the military and the ILO and many
groups have accused Burma on numerous occasions of violating this convention.
407

406 HURFOM (2009) “Laid Waste: Human Rights along the Kanbauk to Maying Kalay gas pipeline”
407 International Labour Oce (2010-06-17 GB.307/6) “GB March 2010 (307th session): Developments concerning the question of the observance by the
Government of Myanmar of the Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29)” KHRG (2006) “Less than Human: Convict Porters in the 2005 - 2006 Northern
Karen State Oensive” www.khrg.org/khrg2006/khrg0603.html, KHRG (2006) “Surviving in Shadow: Widespread Militarization and the Systematic Use of
Forced Labour, Mon State (HREIB)
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e focus on forced labour in this report is to highlight that it is in eect a 100% tax,
as it results in people being unable to work in their own businesses or farms. Data
collected by ND-Burma and others shows that forced labour is still a widespread
occurrence that results in massive losses of income due to loss of earnings and bribes
paid to avoid it. For example, in aton District in Karen State in 2009 around
4000 villages paid the DKBA between 3,000,000 and 5,200,000 Kyat each, to avoid
men being conscripted.
408
Additionally, many people forced to work in this way
are subject to harsh working conditions which can aect their long term physical
and mental health, therefore lowering their productivity and resulting in loss of
earnings. People have no real form of redress to this violation as the mechanism to
lodge complaints as e Ocial Secrets Act 1923 considers it an oence for any
person to possess information deemed classied by the state, resulting in the SPDC
prosecuting people who lodged what it considered to be “false complaints” of forced
labour.
“e villagers were told to cut grass and bushes in their rubber plantations
that are owned by the Light Infantry Brigade 550. One person per
household had to go and work in the rubber plantations during this month.
Everyone had to bring knifes and hoes needed for the work site, and
enough basic rations for one week to have meals in the work site. Anyone
absent would be ned about 2,000 Kyat and sent to camp jail. At the time,
there were about 300 people at the work site. Over 50 people were women,
and over 20 people were students, there instead of their parents, and only
four were men (elderly). During work time for a week, the soldiers fed us
nothing not even water and we were not paid.”
409
Similarly, the practice of child soldiers can also be used as a way of extorting
resources and resulting in a loss of income. Child soldiers are a breach of Article
38 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Optional Protocol to the
Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed
Conict, both of which Burma has acceded to. ere have been several detailed
reports on child soldiers as a human rights violation in itself.
410
ND-Burma
additionally highlights in this report that, like forced labour, child soldiers impacts
on standards of living from loss of income through bribes to stop the child being
taken, or to retrieve them and also in the loss of the child’s support at home and the
loss of education to the child.
Forced Labour in the Campaign for Control of aton District” www.khrg.org/khrg2006/khrg0601a.htm, Burma Issues (2005) “From Prison to Frontline”
www.burmaissues.org/En/reports/porters.html, ERI (2009) “Getting it Wrong”, ERI (2009) “Total Impact”, Burma Issues (2006) “Shoot on Sight” http://
www.burmaissues.org/En/reports/shootonsight.html
408 KHRG (2009) “Extortion and restrictions under the DKBA in Pa’an District,” Karen Human Rights Group, 16 March, p.3 - http://www.khrg.org/khrg2009/
khrg09f4.pdf - accessed 23 March 2010; KHRG (2009) “Exploitative abuse and villager responses in aton District,” aton District, Karen Human Rights
Group, 25 November - http://www.khrg.org/khrg2009/khrg09f20.pdf - accessed 23 March 2010.
409 ERI (2006) “If someone absences who will gine about 2,000 kyats and will send to our camp jail. e rubber plantations are our owned business,” Ponnagyun
Township, Arakan State, Martus Bulletin
410 HREIB (2008) “Forgotten Future: Children Aected by Armed Conict in Burma” www.hreib.com/images/pb/childrightsreport2008.pdf, HREIB (2006)
“Child Soldiers in Burma’s SPDC Armed Forces” www.hreib.com/images/pb/csreport.pdf, Yoma3 (2009) “Child Soldiers: Burma’s Sons of Sorrow”
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“We have to give them so much that our stomachs are empty of food”
“A student from Irrawaddy Division was recruited into the Burmese Army
and his parents had to give money to get him back from the Army. e boy,
aged 15, was found among many young boys in the army camp the army
sta said they must pay 50,000 Kyat (55 US$) to release him. His parents
couldn’t aord the money, so they had to collect money from friends.”
411
Adequate Standard of Living
UDHR Article 22
Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security and is entitled
to realization, through national eort and international co-operation and in
accordance with the organization and resources of each State, of the economic,
social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and the free development
of his personality.
UDHR Article 25
(1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and
well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing
and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in
the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or
other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.
(2) Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All
children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social
protection.
e UDHR sets out rights to an adequate standard of living, including access to
public services. Additionally, the Convention on the Rights of the Child which
Burma has acceded to, also states that a child has a right to an adequate standard
of living, education and health care. e right to an adequate standard of living in
Burma is being aected by the methods that the SPDC chooses to gain revenue from
its people, namely its corrupt system of taxation collection, deprivation of property
and forced labour. e economic impact of this was analyzed in detail in sections I
and II of this report. In addition when looking at the impact on human rights ND-
Burma also highlight briey here the devastating eect that the SPDCs decisions
on its expenditure of these taxes has on human rights for the people of Burma.
411 Excerpt from “A boy who was recruited was took back from the army aer pay” Yoma 3 Internet News 2009 (www.Yoma3.org)
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is was beyond the scope of the economic analysis, however, Burma’s decision to
use such meagre resources on health and education services drastically impacts on
people’s right of non-discriminatory access to these services. Widespread corruption
and extortion in education was particularly noted in ND-Burma’s data. From a
human rights perspective, people in Burma’s standard of living is not only aected
by their decreased incomes from
the collection of taxation but
additionally by the minimal
access to health and education
services, resulting from minimal
expenditure by the SPDC on
these services. e impact of this
on human rights requires further
research than in this report.
Some of these aspects have been
reported on by various groups.
412
ND-Burma and others’ data show
that many people in Burma have a poor standard of living that is perpetrated by this
corrupt taxation system, which arbitrarily deprives people of their property and
livelihood. As shown in section II of this report the level of taxation is such that it
reduces peoples income so drastically that it oen results in debt and poverty. e
joint United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)–Government of Myanmar
Integrated Household Living Conditions Assessment (2007) places poverty
incidence at 32%, with rural poverty signicantly higher (36%) compared to urban
poverty (22%). In the latest 2007 Human Development Index released by UNDP
Burma was ranked 138 out of 182 among the countries surveyed.
413
Food and water
shortages in Burma, due to inadequate support from the government have been
raised as an issue by groups such as the Chin Human Rights Organisation and the
Asian Legal Resource Centre for several years.
414

“On 1 November 2007, there was reportedly an outbreak of diarrhea in
Bawli Bazaar of Maungdaw Township, Arakan State, believed to have
been brought on by a sudden change in weather conditions. Many people
aicted with the illness were admitted to the medical clinic in Bawli
Bazar, however there was little that could be done for them, owing to the
412 TYSO (2010) “Lightless Life” www.palaungland.org/wpcontent/uploads/2010/Report/ED/Education%20Publication%20Report.pdf, Burma Issues (2008),
“Living Ghosts” www.burmaissues.org/En/reports/livingghosts.html, Burma Issues (1998) “Education for the Marginalized Karen in Burma”, www.burmaissues.
org/En/reports/educationfor.html, HURFOM (2009) “Economic predation: taxation, extortion and commandeering in Mon State”, http://rehmonnya.org/
archives/686, BPHWT (2006) “Chronic Emergency”, www.backpackteam.org/wp-content/uploads/reports/ChronicEmergency(English%20version).pdf,
ABFSU (2000) “Year 2000 Education Report” http://burmalibrary.org/docs/ABFSUedu_report.pdf, Over Heads are Bloody but Unbowed, Suppression of
Educational Freedoms in Burma, December 1992, http://www.article19.org/pdfs/publications/burma-educational-freedoms.pdf
413 Asian Development Bank & Myanmar factsheet April 2010
414 Critical Point- Food Scarcity and hunger in Burma’s Chin State 2008 http://www.chro.ca/publications/special-reports.html, Written statement* submitted
by Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC), COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS Fiy-ninth session Item 10 of the provisional agenda E/CN.4/2003/
NGO/84 10 March 2003, May 2010, Yoma3 Internet News, May 2010 www.mizzima.com
A family living in poverty in Mon State (HREIB)
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“We have to give them so much that our stomachs are empty of food”
scarcity of oral saline and other much needed medicines. Between 6 and
8 November 2007, four patients died as a result of the diarrhea that they
suered from.”
415
Burma’s scal policies also mean that farmers are struggling to meet their basic
needs as they are still forced to sell quotas to military at below market prices and
to produce two crops a year depleting the quality of the land. eir land can be
conscated if they refuse and this can oen lead to debt and poverty.
416
is is
particularly prominent in remote areas of the country where the army’s repression is
even higher.
“As a chainsaw owner, I had to pay between 60,000 to 80,000 Kyat in
taxes, depending on who was charging me. e police force, which is based
close to the railway station near my village, also extorted money from me.
Sometimes I had to pay over 100,000 Kyat in monthly taxes. As a logger
I only earned between 60,000 or 70,000 Kyat per month, plus I have to
pay for fuel. So, I had to leave the village ... as I could no longer aord to
continue paying the taxes.”
417

For many the impact on their standard of living is so great that it can also lead to
migration. Studies looking at migration have shown that the country’s grinding
poverty, lack of economic opportunities, extortion and arbitrary taxation are
prominent in the list of factors driving the migration of Burmese people.
418
415 Burma Human Right Yearbook 2007 by the Human Rights Documentation Unit, Chapter 7
416 Moo Ko Htee (2008) “Mission Impossible, surviving under the Burmese regime” www.burmaissues.org/En
417 HURFOM (2009) “Causing great economic hardship and food crisis,” Kaleanaung Sub-Township, Tenasserim Division, Martus Bulletin, 10 March.
418 Sean Turnell, Alison Vicary and Wylie Bradford for Burma Economic Watch, “Migrant Worker Remittances and Burma: An Economic Analysis of Survey
Results” Andrew Bosson “Forced Migration/Internal Displacement in Burma with an Emphasis on Government Controlled areas”
Villagers eeing from Ye Phyu Township, Tanintharyi Division (HURFOM)
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e SPDC’s minimal spending on
education, 0.9% of GDP, has resulted
in a range of corrupt acts by schools to
obtain nancing from the people. For
some these costs are so high it results in
children being unable to attend school.
e SPDC in not providing adequate
education services, and in allowing
the bribery and corruption occurring
within schools to impact on access to
education, is not respecting the rights of
children in Burma to education, which
is explicitly granted in the Convention
on the Rights of the Child. ND-Burma’s data shows that families are being forced to
pay additional fees and taxes in order for their children to be able to attend school.
Fees range from having to pay the teacher fees to teach core curriculum that is not
being taught during the day, to having to purchase school equipment provided by
the state, to paying “donations” for new buildings. is is occurring even for primary
schooling where, despite the CRC stating primary education should be free, forced
payments can range from 60,000 to 100,000 Kyat (about 100 US$) a year.
419
For
some villagers these fees are too high resulting in children not being able to go to
school.
420
In some areas one in ve children do not go onto middle grades, causing a
great impact on the education levels of the population. Many schools lack the most
basic resources for teachers and students, which oen leads to parents having to pay
an inated price for school resources such as books and pens.
“Our child should be attending 1st Grade but he could not go to school
because we could not pay the enrolment fee. Occasionally, when I did
not have money, I did not pay them and I requested to wait 2 or 3 days.
Sometimes, I have to borrow from my neighbour to pay. I cannot aord
these children’s school fees and also our livelihood on my salary. Taxation,
it cannot be avoided and you cannot give less than the amount demanded
because they collect from the school who take responsibility. erefore, we
must pay what they demand if not children would not go to school. We
also have to prepare many things before we send our children to the school.
In our village, many children do not go to school because they could not
pay school enrollment. Many children are forced to leave school and help
their parents work while they are still young.”
421
419 TSYO (2010) “Lightless Life, e negligence of the Military Regime, lack of opportunity in education and the futureless lives of Ta’ang people”, Marwann
Macan-Marker (2010) “Public education a drain on family incomes” http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=51889
420 Radio Free Burma (2010) :http://www.rfa.org/burmese/news/student_unions_launch_pamphlet_campaign_on_skyrocketing_school_expenses-
06122010151156.html
421 PWO (2009) “ Taxation for education in Nam Kham Township” Shan State, Martus Bulletin
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“We have to give them so much that our stomachs are empty of food”
“When my child has to attend 5
th
standard, he has to go to another school,
and I have to give them the school transfer document fee 2500 Kyat, and
the school fee for 5
th
standard 9000 Kyat, and exercise book fee 1500 Kyat,
and we have to buy more exercise books from the school as they couldn’t
sell all books (1700 Kyat), and we have to give for stationeries fee, the text
book fee and they are much higher than the private shops. I have to spend
a lot of money for those fees, so, I have decided to drop out my child from
the school and send him to go to work the rubber elds with his elder
sister. His elder sister has already had to drop out from school when she
was at 7
th
standard.”
Burma’s government spends the least percentage of its GDP on health care of any
country in the world, 0.5% of the gross domestic product.
[104]
e impact of this is
shown by the well being of the population. Infant mortality remains high, with an
estimated 1 in 10 births resulting in the death of the infant. More than 25% of the
population lacks access to safe drinking water. More than 30% of Burma’s children
are chronically malnourished. e national prevalence of underweight and stunting
among children under 5 years is 32%. e HIV/AIDS epidemic poses a serious
threat to the Burmese population, an estimated 25,000 Burmese AIDS patients
died in 2007, deaths that could largely have been prevented by Anti-Retroviral
erapy drugs and proper treatment.
422
Tuberculosis and malaria are also serious
health risks, with malaria being the leading cause of mortality in Burma, and is very
prevalent among children.
423
In 2006, the UNDP’s Human Development Index,
which measures achievements in terms of life expectancy, educational attainment,
and adjusted real income, ranked Burma 130 out of 177 countries. Medical costs are
very high and health care is not available in all villages, people oen cannot aord
treatment and have to go to extreme lengths and sacrice to raise funds for essential
health care.
“My husband suered from cancer for 3 years. To get medical treatment
to save my husband we had to sell four acres of paddy eld and two shing
nets. At the time, one acre of paddy eld was about 70,000 Kyat and a
big shing net was about 25,000 Kyat in local selling price. We got about
350,000 Kyat from selling of four acres of paddy eld and two shing
nets. We also had to sell some gold such as rings and chains to get medical
treatment in town. And I borrowed some money from my neighbors. We
had to spend over 600,000 Kyat to save my husband but we couldn’t save
him. He was very good man everybody loved him a lot.”
424
422 http://www.msf.org/source/countries/asia/myanmar/2008/PreventableFate/PreventableFatereport.pdf
423 http://www.who.int
424 ERI ( 2010) “ Arakan local people in Maday Kywn fearing the treat that their farmland will conscation without proper compensation association to Shwe gas
project’ Arakan State, Martus Bulletin
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Tomas Ojea uintana, the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights recently
stated that serious investment in the public service sector is urgently needed in
order to make available aordable and accessible heath care, education, and social
security coverage.
425
More detailed research is required on the failure of the SPDC to
provide adequate health and education services and the impact this has on the people
of Burma’s human rights. A taxation system should be predictable, transparent,
accountable, codied and fair. is should include not only methods of collection
and administration but additionally responsible and eective spending that benets
the people.
Many people of Burma’s right to an adequate standard of living is violated because
their income is so depleted by high taxes and other forced payments that they cannot
aord the high payments required for the limited public services available.
425 Human Rights Council (13th Session) Progress report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, Tomás Ojea uintana10 march
2010
Children from Ye Township ed to New Mon State Party area
because of persecution by SPDC troops (HURFOM)
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“We have to give them so much that our stomachs are empty of food”
Conclusion
“e people of Burma are poor but the regime that oppresses them is not”.
426
B
urma should be able to sustain itself with its wealth of natural and human
resources, it was once one of the richest countries in Southeast Asia and
the world’s largest rice exporter, in 1950 the per capita of GDP of Burma
and ailand, were virtually identical. Burma has ravaged the country and its
people, using a corrupt and arbitrary taxation system as a tool of repression to
fund its illegal rule. Four decades of military rule, economic mismanagement, and
endemic corruption have resulted in widespread poverty, poor health care, declining
education levels, poor infrastructure, and continuously deteriorating economic
conditions in Burma. Health, nutrition and education have become privileges of the
few instead of universal rights, resulting in a population easier to control as it focuses
on day-to-day survival. ese violations of basic rights have resulted in extremely
low standards of living and poverty for many Burmese people. e military regime
have achieved a large military force at the direct cost to the economic survival of the
nation and at the cost of the majority of people in Burma leading daily lives of quiet
desperation.
427

426 Sean Turnell Burma Isn’t Broke “e junta, not a lack of resources, is to blame for the people’s poverty”. online.wsj.com, AUGUST 6, 2009,
427 Myo Nyunt & Nancy Hudson-Rodd, 2002, ‘Burma development: Hostage of the Junta’, Asian Exchange Vol. 17, No. 2 (2001)/ Vol. 18, No. 1 (2002), pp. 151-
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e data collected by ND-Burma shows a taxation system that involves corrupt
actions which breach the UNCAC and a multitude of human rights. It is not
possible to assess all of the impacts of the corrupt taxation system in Burma, but the
general eect has been to lower private sector productivity, decrease the number of
protable economic exchanges and decrease private sector investment. All of which
have contributed to lower overall economic growth, decreased standards of living and
violated the people’s rights to services and development and an adequate standard
of living. e corruption which persists within Burma needs to be addressed by
having rule of law and eective measures in place to guard against impunity by any
government ocial and reducing administrative discretion.
428
Tomas Ojea uintana,
the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights stated that the gross and systematic
nature of human rights violations in Burma resulted from SPDC policy and that
some of these violations may constitute crimes against humanity and war crimes.
429
He has therefore called for a United Nations Commission of Inquiry, ND-Burma’s
data supports this recommendation by showing that the SPDC uses corrupt acts,
including forced labour to extort resources from the people across Burma. ND-
Burma’s data shows this results in many people being unable to access essential
and basic services, necesary for an adequate standard of living. is is because their
income is so depleted by the taxes and other forced payments demanded from them
and the limited services available require high payments, that they are oen beyond
their means to access.
Burma needs a new tax system that conforms to international human rights
principles and accepted norms and involves education and public debate. Currently
tax revenue in Burma is rarely allocated to public services to benet the people
or on expenditure desired by the country’s population, this needs to change. is
tax reform needs to be accompanied by complementary reforms in critical areas
of accounting, legal systems, tax administration and intergovernmental scal
relations. New policies need to be formulated, legally authorized and combined
with administrative machinery that is able to implement these reforms eciently
and fairly.
430
Reforms are also required that will limit the power of the state both
politically and economically and cease the extensive involvement of the military and
other armed groups in the collection of taxes. Tax reforms at the minimum need to
include:
431
Lowering expenditure on the military and associated supporting structures, •
demobilizing most of the soldiers in the Tatmadaw and centralising the
nancing of the military to discourage the present “live-o the land” policy.
Ending government development programs, which infringe on human rights •
and waste resources in particular the bio-fuel projects.
176, Hong Kong: ARENA Press
428 Richard Goode (1984) Goernment Finance in Developing Countries, Washington, Brookings Institution.
429 Human Rights Council (13th Session) Progress report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, Tomás Ojea uintana10 March
2010
430 Richard Goode (1984) Goernment Finance in Developing Countries, Washington, Brookings Institution; Wayne irsk (1997) “Overview: e Substance and
Process of Tax Reform in Eight Developing Countries,” In Wayne irsk (ed) Tax Reform in Developing Countries, Washington, World Bank.
431 For a more detailed look at tax reform in Burma see Appendix “e Basics of Tax Reform by Alison Vicary”
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“We have to give them so much that our stomachs are empty of food”
Ceasing forcing taxation to be paid through in-kind inputs (including •
labour) to the state, with all taxes levied in cash..
Implementing new methods to allocate licenses for services, as the present •
system provides opportunities for extortion and the arbitrary imposition of
nes.
Ceasing the violation of civil and political rights such as freedom of thought, •
opinion and expression, freedom of association, freedom from arbitrary
arrest and detention to allow debate and development of economic policy.
Ensuring that government revenue from the sale of natural resources is •
allocated to the government’s budget.
Redirecting spending on public goods and services to those that benet the •
people of Burma and progressively promote the realisation of human rights
including economic, social and cultural rights.
Recommencing the publication of data on government expenditure, so •
people of Burma are informed of where revenue is being allocated.
Implementing a tax reform with genuine democratic reform. •
Tax reform must take into account the current conditions in the country and will be
more successful if it involves measures to simplify tax administration and
compliance.
432
All successful reform in other countries has involved a technocratic
leadership supported by political will.
433
In Burma it is the SPDC that makes the
political calculations about policy, with the objective to preserve their control over
resources and the political system. e present political arrangements do not allow
public involvement and protects the central interests of the SPDC. e people of
Burma therefore do not have a way of changing the system and claiming back their
rights to property and an adequate standard of living. It is critical that Burma’s pro-
democracy opposition begin to discuss taxation reform

and have appropriate policy
measures ready.
434
However, any taxation reform needs to take place in the context of
genuine democratic reform. e 2008 constitution states that the military will hold
25% of seats, meaning that even aer the 2010 elections the military will be able
to undermine any attempts to reform the taxation system in to one that conforms
to agreed norms and principles. erefore, to achieve real change to the economic
hardship and related human rights abuses being experienced by the people of Burma,
tax reform needs to be implemented with genuine democratic reform.
432 Birger Nerre (2001) “e Concept of Tax Culture,” in National Tax Association, Proceedings 94
th
Annual Conference. , Malcolm Gillis (1989) “Comprehensive
Tax Reform: e Indonesia Experience 1981-1988,” In Malcolm Gillis (eds) Tax Reform in Developing Countries, Durham NC, Duke University Press.
433 Miguel Urrutia and Setsuko Yukawa (1989) “Economic Growth, Fiscal Policy and Democracy,” In Miguel Urrutia, Shinichi Ichimura and Setsuko Yukawa (eds) e
Political Economy of Fiscal Policy, Tokyo, United Nations University.
434 Richard Goode (1984) Goernment Finance in Developing Countries, Washington, Brookings Institution, Wayne irsk (1997) “Overview: e Substance and
Process of Tax Reform in Eight Developing Countries,” In Wayne irsk (ed) Tax Reform in Developing Countries, Washington, World Bank.
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“We have to give them so much that our stomachs are empty of food”
Acronyms and Burmese Terms
AAPPB Assistance Association for Political Prisoners - Burma
AASYC All Arakan Students’ and Youths’ Congress
ASEAN Association of Southeast Asian Nations
DKBA Democratic Karen Buddhist Army
ERI EarthRights International
GONGO Government Organized NGO
HRDU Human Rights Documentation Unit
HREIB Human Rights Education Institute of Burma
HURFOM Human Rights Foundation of Monland
IMNA Independent Mon News Agency
KHRG Karen Human Rights Group
KIO Kachin Independence Organisation
KNG Kachin News Group
KSWDC Karenni Social Welfare and Development Committee
Kyat Burmese Currency
KWAT Kachin Women’s Association ailand
LWO Lahu Women’s Organisation
MMCWA Myanmar Maternal and Child Welfare Association
MWAF Myanmar Women’s Aairs Federation
MYPO Mon Youth Progressive Organisation
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NGO Non-governmental Organisation
NMSP New Mon State Party
PWO Palaung Women’s Organisation
Pyi A Burmese measurement, 1 pyi=2.5 Kilograms
PYNG Palung Youth Network Group
PYO Pa-O Youth Organisation
SHAN Shan Herald Agency for News
SLORC State Law and Order Restoration Council
SPDC State Peace and Development Council
Tatmadaw Burmese Armed Forces
TPDC Township Peace and Development Council
TSYO Ta’ang Students and Youth Organization
USDA Union Solidarity and Development Association
Ya Ya Ka / VPDC Village Peace and Development Council
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The Basics of Tax Reform
435
Alison Vicary
Burma needs a new tax system that is suitable for a market economy. However,
any tax reform has to pay close attention to the reality of the country. And the
reality of Burma’s military state is that sensible tax reform is extremely unlikely and
would be designed to benet the military rather than the general population. A
brief overview of the basics of tax reform highlights the limited possibility that
meaningful reform would occur under the present regime.
Good policies need to be formulated. e evidence indicates that a 1.
number of factors are associated with the design of good tax policy.
ere must be clarity of conception in the design of tax reform. •
ere must be internal political will for tax reform, and tax •
policy entrepreneurs who are willing to take the responsibility
for the reform process.
Tax reform studies can serve as an important educational •
device and should be widely disseminated. is can include
public debate around tax reform, which increases the public’s
sense of ownership. In the case of Burma any changes in
policies emanating from the bureaucracy are unlikely, as open
debate even within the bureaucracy is not possible and invites
persecution. ere would no role for Burma’s public in the
formulation of policy, as there are no mechanisms that allow for
open discussion and debate.
Foreign advice is more likely to be heeded when it is sought •
rather than oered.
Tax reform needs to be accompanied by complementary reforms •
in critical areas of accounting, legal systems, tax administration
and intergovernmental scal relations. In the context of
Burma reforms that limit the power of the state both politically
and economically are required before tax reform can be
contemplated.
2. Policies need to be legally authorized.
is requires professional attention to detail in converting that •
conception into laws, regulations and procedures.
435 Bird, Richard (2003) “Administrative Dimensions of Tax Reform,” Practical Issues of Tax Policy in Developing Countries, World Bank, 28 April – 1 May.
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is requires three types of institutional units within the •
bureaucracy.
An organizational unit concerned specically with •
draing tax legislation. is would be unusual in Burma
as most ‘policy’ is developed with limited input from any
units within the present bureaucracy.
An organizational unit concerned with gathering and •
analysing data. At present any such unit would be not
be able to perform these functions, as meaningful data
collection and analysis would require the inclusion of
taxes collected by the military and other armed groups.
e threat of violence associated with military rule in
Burma would preclude any such collection. In addition,
the collection of information would also have to exclude
the ‘extra-legal’ collection of taxes by members of
Burma’s bureaucracy.
is requires an organizational unit charged with •
permanent responsibility for tax reform planning,
composed of economists, lawyers and statisticians.
In the case of Burma, policy changes would have to be authorized •
by senior members in the SPDC. is is unlikely as reforms to
the taxation system would impact negatively on the well-being of
the leadership.
3. Policies need to be implemented.
is requires that the administrative machinery for •
implementing reforms is ecient and fair.
Reform requires the support and enthusiasms of those in the •
tax administration. Individuals in the bureaucracy must have
an incentive to implement tax reform. Burma’s bureaucracy has
no incentive to implement any reform agenda. Fear and the
associated inability of local bureaucrats in many areas of Burma
to act independently of the Tatmadaw provides serious incentives
not to implement any reforms that conicts with the interests of
the military stationed at the local level.
Improving the administration of a fundamentally bad system •
of taxation does not constitute an improvement. Before any
reforms are undertaken in the tax administration in Burma the
basic tax structure and tax procedures need to be overhauled.
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“We have to give them so much that our stomachs are empty of food”
Lessons from Tax Reform and their Implications for Burma
Tax reform under the present regime is improbable, as important reforms would
negatively impact on the income of numerous agencies associated with state,
including lower echelons of the SPDC and other armed groups. e major problem
here is that the military and other agencies associated with the state are engaged in
collecting taxes outside of any legal framework. Hence, the following basic ideas for
reform of the tax system are advanced, knowing that without major political reform
in Burma these are improbable.
Good tax reform requires not only good policies but both good tax 1)
administration and good expenditure policy.
436
Burma does not have a good tax
administration. e most obvious problem is the extensive involvement of the
military and other armed groups in the collection of taxes. Without successful
demobilisation this problem will not disappear. Moreover, tax revenue in Burma
is not allocated to expenditure desired by the country’s population, rather it is
diverted to private income and/or supporting armed groups that are engaged
in non-productive and oen destructive activities, including the control of
resources and suppression of the country’s population.
Interests can vary by age, region, by source of income, and dierent people fall 2)
into a number of dierent overlapping groups. All this matters as changes in
taxation are a political calculation by those in the position to make decisions as
to the relative costs and benets of action (or inaction). In Burma it is the SPDC
that makes the political calculations about policy, with the objective to preserve
their control over resources and the political system. e central interest that is
being protected under the present political arrangements is that of the SPDC.
An essential requirement for success is strong political will, exemplied by a 3)
champion(s) who is prepared to put their reputation on the line. So far Burma
does not have anyone with the political will or power to institute signicant
reform (taxation or otherwise). Successful reforms require a cadre of policy
makers and experts with detailed knowledge, of the existing system who are
willing to take responsibility for reform. All successful reform in other countries
has involved a technocratic leadership supported by political will.
437
A big bang change in tax policy is better than an incremental approach. In the 4)
context of Burma this requires that the opposition or those outside the country
begin to discuss taxation reform in the event of regime change.
438
For tax reform
to succeed there must be domestic ownership of the proposals. Tax reform can
be accomplished only when the time is ripe, such as when a new government
comes to power and faces a major revenue problem. It is thus critical that Burma’s
436 Richard Goode (1984) Goernment Finance in Developing Countries, Washington, Brookings Institution; Wayne irsk (1997) “Overview: e Substance and
Process of Tax Reform in Eight Developing Countries,” In Wayne irsk (ed) Tax Reform in Developing Countries, Washington, World Bank.
437 Miguel Urrutia and Setsuko Yukawa (1989) “Economic Growth, Fiscal Policy and Democracy,” In Miguel Urrutia, Shinichi Ichimura and Setsuko Yukawa (eds)
e Political Economy of Fiscal Policy, Tokyo, United Nations University.
438 Richard Goode (1984) Goernment Finance in Developing Countries, Washington, Brookings Institution.
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Network for Human Rights Documentation – Burma
opposition have appropriate policy measures ready.
439
Openness, consultation and discussion can assist the reform process. e tax 5)
administration and the public require education to get them to accept reform.
Under the present political system in Burma this is not possible, but could begin
within Burma’s population in exile.
e avenues that citizens have open to them to inuence policy, other than 6)
voting, can include the following:
Organize or support a pressure group to put forth policy positions and •
inuence the policy debate
Employ professional consultants to represent their interests at the •
draing stage of the legislation
Put their case during implementation to the administration or judiciary •
Find legal or illegal ways to avoid taxation •
Remove their persons and their assets from the taxing jurisdiction. •
In Burma people cannot at present inuence policy. ey can only react
by nding methods to avoid taxation, which includes moving to bordering
countries in search of employment.
Reforms tend to be more successful when they involve measures to simplify tax 7)
administration and compliance. Generally reforms that will work with poor
administration tend to be more successful.
440
In the case of Burma the very poor
administration and other supporting institutions required for tax reform require
that any new system of taxation be kept simple.
Tax reform must take into account the initial conditions in the country. 8)
441
is
means that in the context of Burma taxation reform needs to occur with other
large changes in policy.
Corruption is a plague (very much the case in Burma) and should be prevented 9)
as much as possible by making laws simpler and reducing administrative
discretion.
442
439 Wayne irsk (1997) “Overview: e Substance and Process of Tax Reform in Eight Developing Countries,” In Wayne irsk (ed) Tax Reform in Developing
Countries, Washington, World Bank.
440 Malcolm Gillis (1989) “Comprehensive Tax Reform: e Indonesia Experience 1981-1988,” In Malcolm Gillis (eds) Tax Reform in Developing Countries,
Durham NC, Duke University Press.
441 Birger Nerre (2001) “e Concept of Tax Culture,” in National Tax Association, Proceedings 94
th
Annual Conference.
442 Richard Goode (1984) Goernment Finance in Developing Countries, Washington, Brookings Institution.
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“We have to give them so much that our stomachs are empty of food”
Other Basic Reforms (at a minimum) Required for Taxation
Reform
Rational tax policy design, codication and implementation require 1)
fundamental reforms to the military. is includes at a minimum the
following with regard to the military:
Demobilize most of the soldiers in the Tatmadaw a.
Centralise the nancing of the military to discourage the present b.
“live-o the land” policy
Professionalise the military by moving it out of lower level business c.
activities
Rational tax policy design, codication and implementation are premised on 2)
expenditure reform.
Ensure that government revenue from the sale of natural resources is a.
allocated to the government’s budget
Lower expenditure on the military and associated supporting b.
structures
Redirect spending on public goods and services desired by Burma’s c.
population and which is necessary for a market economy.
Recommence the publication of data on government expenditure, so d.
people have some idea where revenue is being allocated.
Rational tax policy design, codication and implementation require 3)
fundamental reform in the extent of government interference in Burma’s
economy and in people’s lives. is includes at a minimum the following:
End to all government development programs, in particular the bio- a.
fuel projects as these not only waste resources, but promote state
intrusion into the private sector.
e state should cease forcing the private sector to provide in-kind b.
inputs (including labour) to the state, with all taxes levied in cash.
New methods to allocate licenses for services, as the present system c.
provides opportunities for extortion and the arbitrary imposition of
nes.
An environment where open policy discussion (at least within the d.
bureaucracy) can occur without people fearing persecution and/or
imprisonment.
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General development of institutions that are necessary for a modern system 4)
of taxation, which include the following:
A functioning postal system a.
A modern accounting system b.
Liberalisation and promotion of a modern banking sector c.
Professional bureaucracy that is not beholden to the military and d.
where promotion is based on performance.
Finally the freedom of expression required to debate and develop e.
rational economic policy.
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ND-Burma
ND-Burma and its Member Organisations
Information
Network for Human Rights Documentation – Burma
Network for Human Rights Documentation – Burma (ND-Burma)
formed in 2003 in order to provide a way for Burma human rights
organizations to collaborate on the human rights documentation
process. e 13 ND-Burma member organizations seek to collectively
use the truth of what communities in Burma have endured to challenge
the regime’s power through present-day advocacy as well as prepare
for justice and accountability measures in a potential transition. ND-
Burma conducts eldwork trainings; coordinates members’ input into a
common database using Martus, an open-source soware developed by
Benetech; and engages in joint-advocacy campaigns.
Vision:
Seeking truth and justice for a peaceful democratic transition in
Burma
Mission:
Collaboration on a common human rights database
Short-term goal:
Make available high-quality and high-volume data for ND-Burma
members and other advocacy groups
Long-term goal:
Develop an accurate historical record that can be drawn from for
potential transitional justice mechanisms in a future democratic
Burma.
www.nd-burma.org
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A A S Y C
A A P P
Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma)
Since the 1988 popular democracy movement was crushed in a ruthless
crackdown by the military regime, thousands of people have been
arrested, tortured and given long prison sentences for their beliefs
and political activities. Even aer political prisoners are released, they
continue to face ill treatment. e military intimidates and harasses ex-
political prisoners in order to prevent them from participating political
activities. For example, on politically-sensitive occasions in the country -
such as the anniversary of the 1988 pro-democracy uprising - ex-political
prisoners are oen re-arrested, interrogated and detained without
reason. e military regime also attempts to isolate ex-political prisoners
from society, for example by denying them economic and educational
opportunities.
For these reasons, many ex-political prisoners are forced to live in exile.
Many ex-political prisoners who spent many years in jail, and previously
gave assistance to their fellow political prisoners, wanted to continue
these activities. e Assistance Association for Political Prisoners
(Burma) was founded by former political prisoners on 23 March 2000,
the 11
th
anniversary of the arrest of 1988 student leader Min Ko Naing.
AAPP is an independent, non-prot organization.
www.aappb.org , www.fbppn.net
All Arakan Students’ and Youths’ Congress
e military coup in 1988 led to an exodus of democracy activists
to border areas, as they attempted to seek refuge from the violent
crackdown and arbitrary arrest, imprisonment, and mistreatment by the
military regime. e All Arakan Students’ Union (AASU) 1988 and
the Arakanese Students’ Congress (ASC) 1994 became the All Arakan
Students’ and Youths’ Congress (AASYC) in 1995.

Vision of AASYC
“Our vision is that Burma shall be a genuine federal democratic union,
where each and every citizen of every ethnic nationality is accorded the
right and opportunity for liberty, equality, and social justice.”
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Mission of AASYC
In order to realize our vision, we shall:
Inspire active, informed and meaningful participation of the public 1.
in bringing about structural and institutional changes to political,
socio-economic and cultural entities in Burma, through education
and empowerment programs at the grassroots level
Lobby for the constructive engagement of the international 2.
community, by highlighting the negative impacts on global security
and stability of the current political stasis and socio-economic
stagnation in Burma
Promote the development of a new generation of political leadership 3.
that is inherently conscious of its rights, and proactively embraces
its responsibilities for the democratic transition and state-building
processes in Burma.
e following are the main objectives of AASYC:
To promote physical tness, intelligence, virtue, socio-economic 1.
improvement and friendship among Arakanese students and youths
To preserve Arakan’s environment and cultural heritage 2.
To build national solidarity in Arakan 3.
To eliminate all forms of colonialism, chauvinism and dictatorship 4.
To liberate the oppressed ethnic nationalities 5.
To achieve democracy and respect for human rights 6.
To achieve self-determination for Arakan State 7.
www.aasyc.org
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Burma Issue
E R I
Burma Issues/The Peace Way Foundation
Burma Issues is a non-prot organisation, made up of young
ethnic people from Eastern Burma who now dedicate their lives to
educating and empowering grassroots communities in Eastern Burma,
documenting human rights abuses and acting as a bridge between
grassroots communities and the international community.
Our work includes
- Grassroots empowerment: educating and empowering
communities in Burma’s civil war zones. Providing education
to both adults and children in concepts of civil participation,
leadership, critical thinking, and cultural pride
- Information for action: documenting human rights abuses
through interviews, videos and photography
- Campaigns for peace: raising awareness amongst the
international community about the situation
www.burmaissues.org
EarthRights International
Mission statement:
EarthRights International (ERI) is a nongovernmental, nonprot
organization that combines the power of law and the power of
people in defense of earth rights. We specialize in fact-nding,
legal actions against perpetrators of earth rights abuses, training
grassroots and community leaders, and advocacy campaigns.
rough these strategies, ERI seeks to end earth rights abuses, to
provide real solutions for real people, and to promote and protect
human rights and the environment in the communities where we
work.
What we do:
We • document human rights and environmental abuses in countries
where few other organizations can safely operate. We expose and
publicize earth rights abuses through campaigns, reports and
articles.
We • organize the human rights and environmental activist
communities around earth rights issues. We are at the forefront of
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C H R O
the movement to hold corporations accountable for fair human
rights, labor, and environmental practices no matter where they do
business.
We • litigate in U.S. courts on behalf of people around the world
whose earth rights have been violated by governments and
transnational corporations. For earth rights abuses against villagers
in Burma, we brought the landmark lawsuit, Doe v. Unocal Corp.
We • teach people about their earth rights and remedies, especially
people living under repressive regimes. We train villagers and
refugee women to testify at the United Nations and other
international agencies. We run the EarthRights Schools for activists
in Southeast Asia.
We • advocate with those who have been harmed, and ght for
better earth rights protections at every level, from the local to the
international.
www.earthrights.org
Chin Human Rights Organization

e Chin Human Rights Organization (CHRO) is a non-
governmental, non-prot advocacy organization legally registered in
Canada. It was formed in 1995 on the India-Burma border by a group
of Chin activists committed to promoting democracy in Burma, and
raising international awareness of previously unreported human rights
abuses being perpetrated against the Chin people by the Burmese
military regime. e scope of CHRO’s activities has since expanded to
cover not only monitoring and documentation, but also internationally-
focused advocacy campaigns, capacity-building trainings, and support
for grassroots community initiatives. CHRO is the primary rights-based
advocacy organization for the Chin people.
www.chro.ca
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H R E I B
H R D U
H U R F O M
Human Rights Documentation Unit
e Human Rights Documentation Unit (HRDU) is the research
and documentation division of the National Coalition Government
of the Union of Burma (NCGUB). HRDU was initially formed to
document the human rights situation confronting the many and varied
peoples of Burma, and to defend and promote those internationally
recognised human rights that are inherent and inalienable for all persons
irrespective of race, colour, creed, ethnicity or religion.
e-mail : enquiries.hrdu@gmail.com
Human Rights Education Institute of Burma
e Human Rights Education Institute of Burma (HREIB) is a non-
governmental, non-prot Burmese institute for human rights education
in Burma, which facilitates a broad range of training and advocacy
programs to grassroots organizations and community leaders to empower
people to engage in social transformation and promote a culture of
human rights for all. Founded in 2000, HREIB uses participatory
teaching methodologies to empower grassroots community leaders,
women, sexual minorities, and youth who can then become trainers
themselves. HREIB envisions a society where human rights education
is institutionalized as a potent tool for building a peaceful, tolerant and
democratic Burma that respects all aspects of human rights and promotes
human rights for all.
www.hreib.net, www.hreib.com
Human Rights Foundation of Monland
e Human Rights Foundation of Monland (HURFOM) is a non-
governmental human rights organization based in ailand that focuses
on documenting human rights abuses committed by the Burmese
government in eastern and southern Burma. Founded in 1995 by a
group of Mon youth, students and community leaders aer a ceasere
ended open war between the Burmese government and the largest
Mon political party. HURFOM has worked to document the extensive
and ongoing human rights abuses committed against civilians, despite
ceasere arrangements.
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K W A T
e main objectives of HURFOM are:
- to monitor the human rights situation in Mon State and other areas
of southern Burma
- to protect and promote the human rights of all people in Burma.
HURFOM produces monthly issues of the Mon Forum, published in
print and online and containing news, lengthy reports and analysis of
ongoing human rights violations in southern Burma. HURFOM also
frequently publishes incident reports, commentary and features on its
website. As a member of Network for Human Rights Documentation
- Burma [ND-Burma], HURFOM collaborates on the human
rights documentation process for the truth and justice for a peaceful
democratic transition in Burma.
www.rehmonnya.org, www.monland.org
Kachin Women’s Association Thailand
Owing to the deteriorating political, economic and social situation in
Kachin State, many Kachin people, mainly young men and women,
have le their homeland and scattered to foreign countries. e
number of Kachin people coming to ailand for various purposes
is increasing year by year. Problems in the Kachin community in
ailand have also increased accordingly. Recognizing the urgent
need for women to organize themselves to solve their own problems,
the Kachin Women’s Association ailand (KWAT) was formed in
Chiang Mai on the 9
th
September 1999.
Vision:
As a non-prot-making organisation working on behalf of Kachin
women, we have a vision of a Kachin State where all forms of
discrimination are eliminated; where all women are empowered to
participate in decision making at a local, national and international
level; and where all Kachin children have the opportunity to fulll
their potential.
Mission:
e empowerment and advancement of Kachin women in order to
improve the lives of women and children in Kachin society
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L W O
Strategic aims
- To promote women’s rights, children’s rights and gender equality
- To promote women’s participation in politics and in peace &
reconciliation processes
- To oppose all forms of violence against women including human
tracking
- To provide health education & health services
- To promote women’s awareness of how to manage and protect the
environment
KWAT’s programs and activities include Documentation & Research
Program, Capacity Building Program, Anti Tracking Program,
Health Program, Migrant Worker Program, Income Generation
and Advocacy activities.
www.kachinwomen.org
Lahu Women’s Organization
In 1997 October 30, Lahu women who arrived in ailand from Burma,
decided to form a women’s organization at Lahu village in ailand;
named Lahu Women’s Organization (LWO). We formed to help the
needs of women and children, and to empower our Lahu women to
participate in political, social, education, health and leadership roles
through the awareness training, internship program, capacity building
and women development program.
Email: lwo2003@yahoo.com
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P W O
T S Y O
Palaung Women’s Organization
PWO believes that recognizing women’s rights and women’s
participation at dierent political and social levels is one of the processes
of building a just society.
e Palaung Women’s Organization (PWO) was established in 2000
in response to the dearth of women actively participating within other
Palaung organizations. Cultural factors determined that men had greater
access to training, better English language and computer skills, greater
self-condence and more leadership opportunities. PWO was formed
with the intention of educating and empowering women so that they
can develop and strengthen their own self determination and achieve
equality of participation.
Mission
PWO is an organization to empower and advance the social status
of Palaung women towards equality, peace and a just society.
Objectives
- To develop the status of Palaung women and encourage more female
participation at all decision making levels.
- To maintain the literacv and culture of Palaung people.
- To participate in the democratic, peaceful and human rights
movement for Burma.
- To advance and promote gender equalitv and women's rights bv co-
operating with other women’s organizations.
www.palaungwomen.com
Ta’ang Students and Youth Organization
In 1963, the Palaung State Liberation Party, PSLP started to ght for
self-determination and equal rights for Ta’ang (Palaung) people. In
1991, they made a cease-re with the Burmese regime. Aer that, some
PSLP leaders who were dissatised and did not accept the cease-re
agreement formed the Palaung State Liberation Front (PSLF) in the
Karen area in Manaplaw in 1992.
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Yoma3

Some of the PSLF members wanted to support the Ta’ang youth and
established the Palaung Student Youth Organization (PSYO) on the
ai-Burma border in 1998. Later that year, the name was changed
to the Palaung Youth Network Group (PYNG) during the second
meeting on 27 December, 1998.

In 2008, the second congress of PYNG decided to change the name
of the organization to the Ta’ang Students and Youth Organization
(TSYO) to reect that although we are called the Palaung in the
Burmese language, we will start to call ourselves “Ta’ang” as per our
own language.

e mission of the Ta’ang Students and Youth Organization (TSYO)
is to work for peace, justice, equality, and to build a federal democratic
country, and to improve the lives of Ta’ang students, youth, and Ta’ang
people.
www.palaungland.org
Yoma3 News Services
In 1998 pro-democracy activists living in the ai-Burma border area
founded Yoma (3) News Service. It was envisioned as an organization
that would ll in the critical information gaps created by the total
media blackout that exists inside of Burma.
In September of 1998, in the ai border town of Sagkhlaburi, we
published the rst quarterly issue of Yoma (3) News Journal with a
circulation. Open Society Institute, Norwaygian Burma Council,
Burma Project funded the publication until issue number 8 in February
2001, when nancial support halted.
e information in our journals was shared with various human-rights
organizations, Burmese and international media groups, as well as
distributed amongst the general public in Burma, and has been used
as source material by numerous human rights publications, radio news
wires, and border journals.
Our eorts have come at high cost as three journalists have been shot by
the ai and Burmese military while in the eld. On Feb 29, 2000, ai
soldiers in Southern ailand shot and killed Win Myint, while he was
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investigating the forced relocation of ethnic Karen people in Karmar
Palaw, Southern ailand. On June 9, 2000, two of our other reporters,
Sai Win Htut and Nyan Soe were arrested in Kyauk Tine village, Ye
Township, Mon State, Burma and were summarily executed soon aer.
On the ai side our editorial sta are also in a position of incertitude.
As our journal does not have a legal status in ailand, it the
government orders a crackdown we must relocate. is happened
in Sangklaburi in 2002 and we have since moved into the northern
ailand area.
www.yoma3.org
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